Passion for Pearls: A spotlight on Mikimoto

Mikimoto - Kokichi Mikimoto and His Quest for Excellence

Ever since Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in creating the world’s first cultured pearl in 1893, Mikimoto has remained the industry leader for quality and perfection. Mikimoto’s pearl farmers have dedicated their lives to understanding the sea, researching the oyster and growing the finest quality cultured pearls. Their constant pursuit for perfection, their unique sorting and grading processes ensure that only the most superb gems ever reach customers.

Mikimoto’s wish was not satisfied with his cultured pearls being recognised internationally, he was fascinated by the contemporary jewellery designs and advanced manufacturing techniques coming out of Europe. Following extensive visits to Europe and the United States, the Mikimoto Gold Work Factory was established in 1907 as a dedicated manufacturing facility for the Mikimoto Pearl Store.

At the time, Japanese jewellery was very limited both in terms of technique and also of the actual pieces offered, all designed around wearing a kimono and limited to rings, sash clips and hair ornaments.  Facilities to manufacture any other pieces were rare and there were no factories capable of incorporating elements of Western design.  By introducing European designs and manufacturing techniques and by developing new interpretations of traditional Japanese motifs, the Mikimoto Gold Work Factory pioneered the production of innovative pearl jewellery, creating the distinctive “Mikimoto style”.

As years progressed, they have seen a significant development in sophisticated techniques and an increase in the number of skilled craftsmen.  Mastering techniques such as millegrain, openwork, and Keshi pearl beadwork, Mikimoto has been producing jewellery to rival the best pieces from the West. These techniques and pride in craftsmanship are seen throughout their collections regardless of the time when they are produced.

 Visit to Mikimoto Pearl Island

The history of Mikimoto started on this island in the Shinmei Inlet in Ago Bay, the Ise-Shima region of Japan. It was on this island where the world’s first cultured pearl wasMikimoto Monument produced. Today, the island is open to visitors from around the world introducing fascinating world of cultured pearls.

The island showcases a statue of Kokichi Mikimoto, Pearl Museum, Demonstration of Ama (women divers), Kokichi Mikimoto Memorial Hall and the Pearl Plaza (Mikimoto shop and restaurant).

This famous Kokichi Mikimoto statue was built in 1953, shows the Pearl King of latter years holding the Imperial award, wearing his trademark Yamataka hat and cape.

Mikimoto Statue

The Pearl Museum exhibits every step of pearl culturing from how oysters are bred to how harvested pearls are processed and made into jewellery. This is also where antique Mikimoto pieces as well as their “works of art” collection are displayed, including well known “Yaguruma” (muti-functional sash clip), Five-storied pagoda, Liberty Bell, the Pearl Globe and Pearl Crowns. One of the most fascinating features of this museum is probably this unique collection of pearls related items, introducing pearls from different angles such as science, industry, history and art.

The greatest attraction on this island is the definitely the demonstration of “Ama”, women divers. Ama once played an essential role in the cultivation of pearls. They dove to collect oysters, to replace them on sea beds after nucleation, and to transfer oysters to safer locations in typhoon or red tide attacks. As the pearl cultivation technique developed, demand for Ama decreased. Today, it is only on this Pearl Island where you can see Ama diving in their traditional white diving wear. Pearl Diver

Kokichi Mikimoto Memorial Hall introduces Mikimoto’s personal life. Born in 1858 as the eldest son of a family who ran the noodle restaurant “Awako”, his life was full of ups and downs until his death at the age of 96.  This memorial hall illustrates his life through photographs, actual articles and belongings left by his family. This is also where his famous “Taisho-Ren” (the Boss’ String of Pearls), which consists of 49 large pearls hand-picked by Kokichi over a period of more than ten years.. The centre pearl is measuring 14mm! The name of the necklace derives from the fact that Kokichi always kept this necklace around him.

Pearl Exhibition

After learning all about pearl culturing and the life of the Pearl King, there is a shop where you can choose your own pearl jewellery to commemorate the visit to the island. This island makes you feel closer to Mikimoto and appreciate pearls more than ever. This is a must visit place for all pearl lovers if you have an opportunity to visit Japan.