July 11th, 1893 – Pearls from Japan


Mikimoto Kōkichi was a Japanese entrepreneur who is credited with creating the first cultured pearl on July 11th, 1893 and subsequently starting the pearl industry with the establishment of his luxury pearl company Mikimoto.


Mikimoto Kōkichi (御木本 幸吉?, January 25th, 1858 – September 21st, 1954)

His company was awarded patents for pearl cultivation and in 1985 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the patent system he was selected as one of Japan’s top 10 inventors. He was inducted into the house of peers by imperial decree and posthumously awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. The Mikimoto company was ranked as one of the worlds most luxury brands by WWD and Mikimoto Kokichi was considered one of the best Japanese financial leaders of the 20th century by Nihon Keizai Shimbun. He is also known as the founder of Mikimoto Pharmaceuticals, a company specializing in beauty products containing pearl calcium. Mikimoto Pearl Island is named after him.

The original Japanese cultured pearls, known as akoya pearls, are produced by a species of small pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata, which is no bigger than 6 to 8 cm in size, hence akoya pearls larger than 10 mm in diameter are extremely rare and highly priced. Today, a hybrid mollusk is used in both Japan and China in the production of akoya pearls. Other species of oyster used for producing cultured pearls are the penguin’s wing oyster Pteria penguin and the Pacific wing-oyster Pteria sterna.

The development of cultured pearls took much of the chance, risk, and guesswork out of the pearl industry, allowing it to become stable and predictable, and fostering its rapid growth over the past 100 years. Today, more than 99% of all pearls sold worldwide are cultured pearls. Colored Pearls, which occur due to local chemicals inside the shell, much in the way of rubies or sapphires, can be made by inserting natural dyes into the mussel shell, e.g., cobalt chloride to ensure a pinkish color.


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