jewelry lovers, especially those who are fond of pearls, have heard the
name, Mikimoto. Mikimoto Kokichi had a huge impact on the pearl
industry. In 1888, he started what many believe to be the first cultured
pearl farm in Japan.
By 1893, he had his first cultured pearl,
and in 1896, he received a patent for producing hemispherical pearls.
His patent didn’t really work commercially, so he adopted the
"Mise-Nishikawa method” in 1916, and that’s when his cultured pearl
business really took off. The cultured pearl industry exploded as well,
and by 1935, there were 350 pearl farms in Japan producing 10 million
cultured pearls annually.
At this point, the natural pearl farmers
started to fear the competition. Prior to the early 1900s, the pearl
market consisted of natural pearls—pearls created spontaneously by
nature. Natural pearls are much rarer and more expensive than cultured
pearls, so naturally when Mikimoto entered the scene, offering prettier
and more affordable pearls, the natural pearl farmers started losing
business. In fact, they sued him!
The cultured pearl business also
put many pearl divers out of business. At that time, The Persian Gulf
was known for its natural pearls, and divers worked consistently to find
them. When cultured pearls flooded the market, the demand for natural
pearls fell drastically, and many divers and others in the natural
pearly industry lost work, and even their livelihoods.
“cultured” came about to distinguish natural pearls from non-natural
pearls. Cultured pearls were considered by some to be less desirable and
authentic than natural pearls.
So, who has Mikimoto pearls? Many
people from the WWII “Greatest Generation.” Following the Second World
War, after the Allied Forces occupied Japan, they feared an illegal
pearl trade, so pearl sales were discouraged from being sold within
Japan. Instead, the Japanese sold pearls in military stores frequented
by Allied troops.
While Mikimoto pearls aren’t necessarily the
best pearls in the world, they can certainly be considered some of the
oldest cultured pearls from one of the oldest pearl companies in
existence with the greatest name recognition; similar to the Levi’s
brand and jeans.
Mikimoto Kokichi has earned the distinct honor of
being the founder of our modern-day cultured pearls, and will always
carry the legacy of almost single-handedly launching the cultured pearl
If you’re looking for quality pearls, make sure you visit Adina by Empire Jeweler’s remarkable online store.
You’ll find an exquisite selection of estate and vintage pearl jewelry
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