In 1888, Mikimoto Kokichi, together with his partner and wife, Ume Mikimoto, obtained a loan to start his first pearl farm at the Shinmei inlet on Ago Bay in Mie prefecture. After many failures and near bankruptcy, Mikimoto created the hemispherical cultured pearl. It took 12 more years to create the completely spherical cultured pearl but it wasn’t until 1920 that the first commercial pearl farms
were in production. Biologist, Tokishi Nishikawa and carpenter, Tatsuhei Mise learned the secret to making spherical pearls from a British marine biologist, William Saville-Kent. By inserting the lip of the mantle tissue with the nucleus of shell of an oyster or metal into an oyster, it created nacre around that irritant which created a pearl. Mise received a patent for the creation of the grafting needle which was used for this procedure in 1907. Nishikawa applied for the same patent that year, as well, so they decided to call the discovery the “Mise-Niskikawa method”. In 1916, Mikimoto
used a different technique to make round pearls in mantle tissue altering his earlier 1908 patent. That method did not work so Mikimoto used the Mise-Nishikawa method after 1916 and his business exploded. By 1935, there was an oversupply of pearls and the Japanese cultured pearl market dropped drastically. Mikimoto created demand by burning low quality pearls as a publicity stunt letting the pearl industry known that Mikimoto only sold the highest quality pearl. On September 21, 1954, at the age of 96, Mikimoto Kokichi died. In 2003 through 2008, Mikimoto was the official jeweler of the Miss USA pageant and in 2002 through 2007, the Miss Universe pageant and in 2001 through 2008, the Miss Teen USA pageant.
Back to Jewelry History
Back to Home Page