In the late 19th century, a miracle happened. Until then, pearls were rare and expensive like diamonds. Then 127 years ago, Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan gave the world the knowledge of how pearls are grown. He founded a pearl jewelry company.
Japanese Kokichi Mikimoto was the son of a pasta maker from Tobe (a coastal town in Japan known for its oyster shells). Mikimoto then manages to grow pearls on his marine farm. He founded a jewelry company that still exists. The method patented by Mikimoto is still in use today. Almost all pearl jewelry is made from bred “sea gems” that are no different from natural ones (except under the X-ray machine). We know that natural pearls occur when an impurity or a tiny pest accidentally enters the shell. The shell then forms a protective layer around them, which grows over time in the form of a sphere (called pearl). As this does not happen often, it is necessary to open three tons of oysters, perhaps in order to find a pearl in one. That’s why pearls have always been fabulously expensive.
French jeweler Louis-François Cartier has bought a pearl necklace (estimated at US $ 1 million) from his New York headquarters. Mikimoto has thought of putting “something” on the farm in shells (oysters) that will encourage them to produce pearls. The only difference between the old and the new technique is that the ame (sea women in Japan who popped shells from the bottom of the sea) has been replaced by technology.
Thanks to Mikimoto, pearls have become synonymous with timeless fashion and elegance. Although its cultured pearls are not cheap (some specimens cost up to several thousand dollars), they are still a favorite addition to women around the world.
Famous American inventor Thomas Edison said of Mikimoto’s work: “There are not only two things that can occur in my lab: diamonds and pearls. Cultivating pearls is one of the world’s wonders. ”On the Mikimoto’s Island of Pearls is the company’s museum. The main traction is the “Ame” (sea women) which, by diving, show visitors how shells used to be removed. Sea women dive all year long. During the winter they warm up well before diving. Whistles in the sea are created as they gently release air.
Mikimoto’s life path was full of failures and failed attempts. The environment followed his work with suspicion. His only support during difficult years was his wife Uma and family. Red algae and other attackers often destroyed his work. In 1893, at his farm on Ojimi Island (now known as Mikimoto’s Pearl Island), he was able to raise oysters for the first time in history to “produce” perfectly round pearls. The Japanese Emperor named him one of the ten greatest innovators in Japan. He’s wife Uma dies at age 32, leaving behind five children. Even then, Mikimoto did not surrender to pain and mourning.
He continues to perfect his method of pearl cultivation and is tirelessly promoted worldwide. He visited fairs in Europe and the United States, where he met Thomas Edison, a famous American inventor and scientist. The New York Times publishes the story of Mikimoto. 1899 Mikimoto opens the first pearl jewelry store in Ginza Square (Tokyo, Japan). The Ginza City Quarter is today a trade center in the Japanese capital. The building where the store opened was a two-story white stone building that reminded customers of pearls. The company’s headquarters are still in the same place today, but the building is a luxurious building and one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in Tokyo.
Cultured pearls and natural pearls vary in size, color and shape. Mikimoto used the highest quality pearls. Only five percent of pearls meet high standards and are used in jewelry making. Mikimoto’s pearl jewelry became popular thanks to the use of Western craftsmanship techniques and traditional Japanese skills. By 1933, Mikimoto had opened stores in London, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Bombay and Los Angeles. Upstairs above the store, Mikimoto would open a gallery where customers could become acquainted with the pearl production process and view extremely rare specimens.
Mikimoto was far ahead of his time. Pearl magazine was published from 1908 to the end of the 20th century. Beautifully designed covers were the forerunners of today’s catalogs. Photos of jewelry with serial numbers and information on the materials used to make the jewelry were published in Pearl. Mikimoto’s work encouraged many Japanese to go his own way. 350 pearl farms are opening soon in Japan. There are many poor quality specimens on the market. To keep it from the worse producers, Mikimoto then makes a play for the world media. Time magazine, October 31, 1932, writes: “Last week, a tiny old man rolled up his kimono sleeves, took a shovel in his hands and threw 720,000 pearls into the fire. Within three minutes, all was left of the ashes … He burned all the pearls that are not perfect because he only makes his jewelry from perfect pearls. ”To this credo, Mikimoto stayed true to the end. His business policy was continued by his successors. Mikimoto died in 1954. He was 97 years old. When he became too old to travel the world and promote his pearls, he did so through radios. He would say that he visits the whole world at least three times every day. He was fascinated by radios. He would place one radio receiver in each room where he stayed. So he walked through the premises in his home and office listening to radio stations from all over the world without missing any of his daily events. Mr. Mikimoto was a genius and again an ordinary hardworking man.
Mister Mikimoto, thank you very much and rest in peace.