Pearls have always been the most valuable and precious jewel. We don’t know when humans found it but as far we go in history, we found their lustrous presence. It was always very difficult to find a natural pearl and therefore only noble, royal and rich can afford these precious gem. In present time it has become more difficult to acquire a natural pearl, even for the riches.
This decreasing availability of pearls due to severe and continuous exploitation of pearls producing oysters for centuries causes the need, not only to conserve and harvest the oysters but also to find a way to produce the pearls naturally. But in control environment and technique developed by humans. That is why these pearls are also known as Cultured pearls.
Father of Cultured Pearl Industry
The title of “Father of cultured Pearl Industry” goes to a Japanese, Kokichi Mikimoto. He is the founder of world’s renowned pearl jewellery company, Mikimoto Industry. In 1893, after so many failures, he created the hemispherical pearls.
His Early Life
Kokichi Mikimoto was born on 25 January 1858 in Toba, a small town on the Japanese peninsula of Shima. His father was a noodle-shop owner and worked hard to feed his children, but that was not enough for his family so he also sold vegetables and charcoal. At the age of 13, Mikimoto left the school and he also sold vegetable to support his family. His fascination for pearls started when he saw the divers of Ise diving for this precious treasure.
Leading the World in Cultured Pearl Industry
Before 1893 Mikimoto reached to financial bankruptcy and faced lot of criticism because of his strange experiments on oysters. Oyster eating octopuses and the repeated damage to his Akoya pearl oyster beds from red algae nearly destroyed him. Today the island where he eventually succeeded is now known as Mikimoto Pearl Island. In 1893 he succeeded in developing first cultured pearl which was hemispherical in shape.
As early as 1899 Mikimoto opened a store specializing in pearl jewelry in Tokyo’s Ginza district, an area that was already the epicenter of the latest Western fashion trends. In 1906 he moved the store to Ginza 4-chome, where it has remained ever since. Till 1913 his business expanded globally and he opened his store in London.
Tokichi Nishikawa and Tatsuhei Mise learned the technique of creating round pearl from a British Marine Biologist William Saville-Kent. In this technique, a piece of oyster epithelial membrane with a nucleus of shell or metal into an oyster causes the tissue to form a pearl sack. This sack produces nacre around the nucleus and pearl is formed. Mikimoto with Nishikawa and Mise succeeded in creating round pearl in 1905. But commercially viable harvests were not obtained until the 1920.
In 1927 he met the famous inventor Thomas Edison, at his home in New York. Kokichi presented him the Mikimoto pearl and the first statement he gave after receiving that gift, ‘This isn’t a cultured pearl, it’s a real pearl,’ . ‘It’s one of the wonders of the world that you were able to culture pearls. It is something which is supposed to be biologically impossible!’ Their meeting was reported in the New York Times and Mikimoto and his pearls became a household name overnight.