Jewellery

The story of Mikimoto and the King of pearls

The man behind the myth

“I would like to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls,” said Kokichi Mikimoto, who is often referred to as the “King of Pearls”.

Kokichi Mikimoto successfully invented the method for culturing pearls, which even surprised the legendary inventor, Thomas Edison. It was Kokichi’s development of cultured pearls in the late 19th century brought Japanese jewellery to the attention of the world. He was a pioneer in his dedication for the pursuit of beauty and devoted his whole life to pearls. 

Kokichi Mikimoto

He had success in culturing a semi-spherical pearl In 1893, after years of setbacks; and had pledged himself to protect and raise stocks of Akoya pearl oysters, depleted at the time by over-fishing. Years were spent in trial-and-error experiments that were often viewed by the public with scepticism. Though he succeeded in culturing pearls on Ojima Island, which is now known as Mikimoto Pearl Island, at Toba. This was a defining moment and marked the first time that pearls had been produced from an oyster through human intervention. This achievement also formed the foundation of today’s Mikimoto.

A couture piece of Mikimoto fine jewellery

He would become known throughout the world as the inventor of cultured pearls. In 1927, during a tour of Europe and the United States, Kokichi had the opportunity to meet Thomas Edison and visited him at his home in New York. Upon seeing the Mikimoto pearl that Kokichi presented to him, Edison declared: “This isn’t a cultured pearl, it’s a real pearl. There are two things which couldn’t be made at my laboratory—diamonds and pearls. It is one of the wonders of the world that you were able to culture pearls. It is something which is supposed to be biologically impossible.” This meeting was reported in the New York Times, and Mikimoto pearls became a household name almost overnight.

Mikimoto earrings from the fine jewellery collection shown during July couture 2021

Bringing cultured pearls into the world of jewellery would be next. Kokichi would exhibit masterpieces of pearl jewellery at international expositions throughout the world.

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