Tokki Pearls: An Introduction

Tokki Pearls: An Introduction - Spey Co. Fine Pearl Jewelry of Washington, DC

The world of Spey is fascinating, surrounded as we are with such beautifully lustrous pearl jewelry and fabulously decadent little luxuries. There’s always something new to discover, which is why we thought it would be fun to share a little-known type of pearl that we’ve come to adore: Tokki pearls.

In our vaults of curious delights there are many pearls of singular distinction and Tokki pearls are no exception. Just look at the lustrous Tahitian dandy above; something seems different, no? What you are observing is the fusion of one pearl with another that occurs naturally inside the oyster. Of course, scientists suspect Tokki pearls may form in several ways, but let’s start with the basics.


How Tokki pearls are formed

Tokki is a Japanese term to describe a bump or protrusion emanating from a typically smooth surface. The expression was adopted by the pearl industry to help describe a pearl anomaly that occasionally emerges at harvest. Pearl farmers were noticing some pearls that were seemingly attached to others, as if they had formed so close together that their layers of nacre eventually fused.

Some deformations (if we may be so callous as to describe it thus) were not as pronounced. The protrusion could manifest as a little round bump or bubble on the side of the pearl. Just what was causing this phenomenon? Researchers have identified three distinct groups of Tokki pearls, which suggests something to how they are formed:

  • Type 1: When the cultured pearl nucleus is implanted within the oyster and a small cavity is internalized between the bead and surrounding nacre, this creates the appearance of a bubble or smooth peak rising out of the pearl.
  • Type 2: When a small piece of extra mantle tissue is left floating within the pearl sac and eventually connects with the intended cultured pearl, this creates the appearance of a glob or knob rising from the surface of the pearl.
  • Type 3: When two pearls form independently within the same pearl sac, but then nestle against each other and are wrapped in subsequent layers of nacre, this creates the appearance of a snowman or stacked ice cream cone (as pictured).

It seems the grafting procedure, or how well and cleanly the technician performs his or her task of implanting a bead nucleus within the host mollusk, is the root cause of Tokki pearl formation. Sitting as an extension on the main pearl, these distinctive and truly individual beauties make for one-of-a-kind Spey pearl pendants and earrings.


What to look for when shopping for Tokki pearls

When shopping for Tokki pearls or considering adding them to your wardrobe, note the thickness and strength of the bond between the two pearls. The point of fusion for Type 3 Tokki pearls is often very delicate, if substantial layers of nacre did not have time to bond them more securely. The two bodies may attach at an early (strong bond) or late stage (weak bond) of nacre deposition. At harvest, the second pearl may dislodge from its sister pearl (or have never attached at all), but if not, a proper jewelry setting will ensure that it stays connected to each other and to you for generations to come.