April 5, 2013

Kokichi Mokimoto And The Story Of The First Cultured Pearls


Towards the end of the 1800s, Japanese entrepreneur Kokichi Mikimoto engaged in a project unique for his time: pearls culture. In 1893, Mikimoto was already obtaining the world’s first semi-spherical pearl and two years later, was patenting his invention.

In 1917, spherical pearls were already produced on a commercial level, but Mikimoto had to endure severe scrutiny from the public, who maintained that his pearls were mere imitations of real ones, in spite of the scientific reports proving otherwise. This was about to change in 1927, when Mikimoto met his idol, American inventor Thomas Edison.

”This isn’t a cultured pearl, it’s a real pearl.” , Edison said to his. ”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.” The meeting between the two was documented in the New York Times, providing the Japanese entrepreneur with a welcome influx of notoriety. The following conversations between Mikimoto and Edison, held in written letters, are now on display at the Mikimoto Pearls Island Museum, the place in which he cultured his first pearl in 1893.


Currently, Mikimoto is now only known as a pioneer of the culture pearl industry, but also as its leader. His name-sake stores can be found in all corners of the world, from New York to Paris and London.

To mark the 120th anniversary of the creation of the first cultured pearl, the company is celebrating Kokichi Mikimoto’s prestigious heritage with a special collection, in which pearls are metaphorically returned into water.

The ”Water Collection” set featured a necklace and drop-earrings with White South Sea pearls encased in 18 karat white gold and bordered by diamonds, symbolising perfectly crystallised water droplets and reflecting light in a truly unique way.

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Photos courtesy of: elibijoux.ch, artinfo.com