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Over a century ago, Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in creating the world's first cultured pearl. His quest for perfection and his love for these pure, lustrous gems of the sea were the guiding forces that built the house of Mikimoto.
Today, Mikimoto is the foremost producer of the finest quality cultured pearls and a world leader in the design of exceptional jewelry. The Mikimoto name is synonymous with superior quality at every stage, from the selection of finest materials to expert workmanship to our customer service commitment. Each beautiful piece reflects supreme dedication, passion and care. For today's connoisseur of fine jewelry, Mikimoto combines timeless elegance with sophisticated, modern design. To own Mikimoto is a unique and luxurious pleasure. To wear Mikimoto is to reflect the purity of the ocean... the mystery of creation... and to know you are adorned with the finest cultured pearls in the world.
The skill of a scientist and the soul of an artist combined to create the genius of Kokichi Mikimoto, the inventor of cultured pearls. A visionary on a quest for beauty, it was his dream to "adorn the necks of all women around the world with pearls." Since his company's founding in 1893, elegant women worldwide have been entranced by cultured pearls... mysterious gems of the sea.
Born on January 25, 1858, in the town of Toba on Japan's Shima peninsula, Kokichi Mikimoto was the eldest son of a noodle-shop owner, a generations-old family business. As the family grew, Mikimoto's father worked hard to feed his children, selling charcoal and vegetables in addition to noodles. When Mikimoto was only 11, his father fell ill, propelling the young boy into an early adulthood and prompting him to to seek his fortune in a changing, modernizing world.
Mikimoto was born at the end of the Edo period, a time when Japan was almost totally closed to foreign influence. With the arrival of Commodore Perry in the early 1850s, the doors of international trade began to open and an era of social change started. Highly intelligent and ahead of his time, Mikimoto was bold in his willingness to interact with other cultures and explore new opportunities beyond his family circumstances. As a young man, he developed a keen interest in his port town's most famous local product: Ise Pearls.
Because these natural pearls fetched such high prices, they were gathered without restraint, becoming scarcer with each passing year. Concerned about extinction of the pearl-producing oysters, Mikimoto embarked on his life-defining mission to grow pearls within his own, protected oyster beds.
Mikimoto learned that Akoya oysters produced the best pearls. He explored methods of introducing a particle into the flesh of the oyster to stimulate secretions of "nacre" that build up in hundreds of thousands of layers, creating a lustrous pearl. He overcame many failed experiments and challenges of nature, from oyster-eating octopi to a disastrous "red tide" of bacteria that threatened the survival of his oyster beds.
On July 11, 1893, after enormous efforts of research and experimentation, Mikimoto's wife, Ume, hauled a basket of oysters from the sea for inspection. Nestled within the folds of an oyster, a gleaming object caught her eye. A pearl! Her husband's dream had finally become a reality. Mikimoto had discovered the secret to cultivating beautiful pearls of such quality that they rivaled natural pearls. In 1896, Mikimoto was granted his first patent for cultured pearls. He based his flourishing business on Ojima Island where his first pearls were grown, renaming it Pearl Island.
In the decades to come, Mikimoto continued to advance the science of pearl cultivation and conquer new challenges such as successful cultivation of the remarkable South Sea pearl. Again overcoming huge obstacles, including typhoons, he turned dream into reality with the cultivation of a large black pearl 10mm in diameter in the deep, warm waters of Okinawa.
– image credit:
This Long Awaited Moment by Masayoshi Ise, 1978（Mikimoto Pearl Island)
Mikimoto's first pearl boutique opened in Tokyo's fashionable shopping district, Ginza, in 1899. His exceptional gems created high demand and Mikimoto stores soon followed in London, Paris and other major cities. Mikimoto's passion and ceaseless dedication to pearls led to many exciting developments, and helped his nation prosper in the global arena. As an inventor, he enthusiastically exhibited his products and created many astounding displays that spread the renown of Mikimoto cultured pearls.
In 1910, a traditional Japanese fan and screen lavished with Mikimoto cultured pearls were the focal points of the Anglo-Japanese Fair in London. At the 1926 World's Fair, the Mikimoto Pagoda dazzled the public with over 12,000 pearls in a platinum setting. At the 1939 New York World's Fair, a pearl model of the Liberty Bell drew gasps from visitors.
As an ambassador of cultured pearls, Mikimoto personified Japan's reputation for quality goods and helped to build its global trade. Many honors were bestowed on him: he was appointed to the House of Peers; introduced to Thomas Edison; received in audience by Emperor Showa; and received by the Empress Dowager when she visited Tatokujima Island.
Upon his death at age 96, after building one of the greatest names in luxury jewelry, Mikimoto was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. Today, his brand and his vision live on. Mikimoto cultured pearls are in demand more than ever as among the most chic and glamorous gems a woman can own, recognized worldwide for superb quality and elegant design.
After years of hard work, Kokichi Mikimoto cultures a beautiful, semi-spherical pearl. A major achievement, it is the first pearl ever grown by man.
– image credit:
This Long Awaited Moment by Masayoshi Ise, 1978
(Mikimoto Pearl Island)
The first Mikimoto Pearl Store opens in Tokyo's chic Ginza shopping district, home to the latest Western fashion trends. Kokichi Mikimoto quickly demonstrates his strength in luxury jewelry retailing.
Continuing his tireless research, Kokichi Mikimoto succeeds in culturing a perfectly round pearl. Shortly thereafter, he meets the Meiji Emperor at Ise Shrine and confides: "I would like to adorn the necks of all women around the world with pearls."
Fascinated with the contemporary designs and techniques of European jewelry, Kokichi Mikimoto establishes his own factory to create a unique Mikimoto style. Japan’s first full-scale jewelry production facility, it transforms the world of cultured pearl fashion.
The first overseas Mikimoto Pearl Store opens in London in 1913. Many others soon follow.
Overcoming the challenges of deep waters and warm temperatures, Mikimoto finally succeeds in culturing his first South Sea pearl at his oyster beds off Ishigaki Island in 1931. The dazzling gem is a 10 millimeter Black South Sea pearl.
The five-tiered Pagoda, elegantly modeled after Horyuji Temple and covered in Mikimoto cultured pearls, creates a sensation at the Philadelphia World’s Fair. Now on display at the Pearl Museum, Mikimoto Pearl Island.
Kokichi Mikimoto visits the inventor Thomas Edison at his home in New Jersey. An admiring Edison remarks, "There are two things which couldn't be made in my laboratory - diamonds and pearls."
Recognized by the Emperor as one of the 10 greatest Japanese inventors, Kokichi Mikimoto is invited to dinner at the Imperial Palace, along with other inventors.
Demonstrating his ethical and artistic commitment to quality, Kokichi Mikimoto shovels inferior pearls into a fire in front of the Kobe Chamber of Commerce. Foreign journalists based in Kobe communicate his message to the world.
Mikimoto exhibits a model of Mount Vernon at the Chicago World's Fair. Created from 24,328 pearls, this valuable creation is donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. where it remains today.
The Yaguruma, a sash clip with interchangeable settings in 12 different forms, attracts crowds at the Paris Expo. Its unique design is a breakthrough in multi-functional jewelry. Sold in Paris, it disappears from public view, then reappears at an auction in New York in 1989. It is purchased by Mikimoto Pearl Island where it remains today.
Mikimoto recreates the Philadelphia Liberty Bell for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Studded with 12,250 pearls and 366 diamonds, it is nicknamed “the Million Dollar Bell”. Now on display at the Mikimoto Pearl Museum.
While on her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio in 1954, Marilyn Monroe was given a gift of Mikimoto Pearls. Shown here in its original oval box, it is one of the few pieces of "real" jewelry she owned and treasured.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. is an annual event celebrating Japanese-American friendship that dates back to 1912. Mikimoto creates the festival crown in 1956 and donates it to the festival committee for the annual crowning of the Cherry Blossom Queen.
The Diamond International Awards are the most prestigious awards for jewelry design in the industry. The brooch "Prelude to Space", wins the award, a first for Mikimoto.
Although a Mikimoto Pearl Salon had opened in New York’s Takashimaya department store in 1959, this is the first freestanding store in Manhattan, located on fashionable Fifth Avenue. In 1995 the store moves to its current Fifth Avenue address.
Mikimoto opens its doors in Paris on Place Vendôme, world renown as a destination for exquisite luxury.
Mikimoto takes its place on London's New Bond Street. Adjacent to Buckingham Palace, this elegant thoroughfare is home to many of the world's top jewelers.
The Costa Mesa Mikimoto opens in South Coast Plaza, Orange County, California.
This distinctive collection of pearl jewelry, created by renowned Italian designer, Giovanna Broggian is launched by Mikimoto at the turn of the new century.
With the Princesse de Monaco rose, named for Princess Grace, as its motif, Mikimoto launches this limited edition collection to represent the ultimate in elegant, refined beauty. A portion of sales are donated to the Princess Grace Foundation - USA to advance the careers of young performing artists.
The Pearls in Motion™ Collection debuts; a versatile, playful and functional design of Mikimoto cultured pearls that glide to fit every mood. The patented mechanism allows each pearl to be individually repositioned along an 18k gold chain as the wearer desires, creating infinite looks from the same piece of jewelry.
The intricate design of the Mikimoto Crowns, made with White South Sea and Akoya cultured pearls and diamonds, depicts the ancient symbol of the phoenix rising to signify status, power and the vision of great beauty.
First opened in 2001, the store is in the iconic Beverly Wilshire Hotel on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California.
The new store, designed by the famed architect Toyoo Ito, has quickly become a Ginza landmark. Inspired by the alluring mystery of a jewelry box and imagining bubbles around pearls and floating petals, Ito translated his vision into a work of art that all who visit Ginza must experience.
Mikimoto proudly joins the history and tradition of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses® by designing the Rose Queen® Crown and Royal Court Tiaras.
Mikimoto and fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, an artist of the couture fashion form, align their talents to create an exceptional, limited edition line of fine jewelry.
Assouline Publishing’s memoir, "Mikimoto", tells the story of one man's quest to uncover the secret of an iconic gem of nature. The publication coincides with the 150th anniversary of Kokichi Mikimoto’s birth.
Ten years after establishing a Las Vegas presence, Mikimoto opens a new store at Crystals™ at CityCenter. The theme, “Deep Blue Sea”, pays homage to the ocean, birthplace of pearls. Its dramatic décor will inspire the design of other Mikimoto stores.
Mikimoto celebrates 120 years of rich heritage and a long standing tradition of producing the world’s most exquisite pearls. The vision was first born when Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in creating the world’s first cultured pearl forever changing the industry. Please visit our page as we continue to unveil new and exciting collections for the anniversary.
Launched in Paris in January 2014 to coincide with Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday year, the collection was made available through MIKIMOTO in Japan and worldwide.
"Paradise Interrupted: Disintegration"
Mikimoto, in collaboration with the Asian Cultural Council, revealed the 2014 Holiday window created by artist Jennifer Wen Ma.
Mikimoto and Ladurée joined forces creatively to produce a Limited Edition macaroon and gift box.