Throughout the world, when you hear Mikimoto, you think pearls. What’s the history of Mikimoto pearls? Here’s an explanation, courtesy of thepearlgirls.com.
Most 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.
The word “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 market worldwide.
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