“I would like to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls.” – Kokichi Mikimoto’s dream lives on.
Globally renowned as the “King of Pearls”, Kokichi Mikimoto persevered through a series of rigorous trials and hardships before he successfully invented the method for culturing pearls – a method so unique it even amazed the legendary inventor, Thomas Edison.
Kokichi’s development of cultured pearls in the late 19th century brought Japanese jewellery to the attention of the world. An intrepid pioneer who was resolute in his pursuit of beauty, Kokichi Mikimoto devoted his entire life to pearls. Dedicated to the realization of our founder’s lifelong dream to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls, MIKIMOTO makes it possible for people all over the world to experience the subtle elegance of pearls. January 25, 2013 marks the 120th anniversary of Mikimoto.
Success in culturing a semi-spherical pearl
In 1893, after years of setbacks, Kokichi Mikimoto with the support of his family and wife Ume succeeded in culturing a semi-spherical pearl. He had pledged himself to protect and raise stocks of Akoya pearl oysters, depleted at the time by over fishing, and to grow pearls with these oysters. Many long years were spent in what were, from the outset, trial-and-error experiments that were viewed with intense public scepticism. Only his family stood by him. Plagued by financial difficulties and repeated damage from red algae blooms, Mikimoto overcame the odds and at last succeeded in culturing pearls on Ojima Island (now known as Mikimoto Pearl Island) at Toba. This was a defining moment, and marked the first time that pearls had been produced from an oyster through human intervention. This achievement also formed the foundation of today’s MIKIMOTO.
Success in culturing a spherical pearl & meeting with inventor Thomas Edison
It took Kokichi Mikimoto over a decade or more of hard work until he succeeded in producing a perfectly spherical pearl, and he became known throughout the world as the inventor of cultured pearls. In 1927, during a tour of Europe and the United States, Kokichi had the opportunity to meet Thomas Edison, visiting him at his home in New York. Admiring the Mikimoto pearl that Kokichipresented to him, Edison declared, “This isn’t a cultured pearl, it’s a real pearl. 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 was reported in the New York Times, and Mikimoto pearls became ahousehold name almost overnight.
What happened next…
Following Kokichi’s success in culturing pearls, export volumes grew steadily and pearl farming matured into a Japanese industry. However, an influx of new entrants damaged the reputation that Japanese pearls had acquired over the years, and inferior pearls began to appear on the market. In response, Kokichi publicly burned quantities of low-quality pearls, declaring that he had no choice if people were going to export them. As long as “fakes” are kept out, he said, “Japanese pearls will one day grace the necks of all women throughout the world.”
Through such acts, Kokichi took a strong stance on eliminating inferior pearls and maintaining quality. The lustre of Mikimoto pearls, as well as their elegance and refinement, can be attributed to the importance that Kokichi placed on quality. MIKIMOTO strictly adhere to Kokichi’s tenets as the originator of cultured pearls, and in so doing MIKIMOTO will continue to define the standard for high-quality pearls.