Today the name Mikimoto is a world famous brand for cultured pearls, but the founder of the company, Kokichi Mikimoto, came from humble beginings.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 seek his fortune in a changing, modernising world.
Japan in the early 1850s, was beginning to open the doors of international trade and was an era of social change. 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.
In 1878, Mikimoto helped to arrange and judge an exhibition of pearls in Japan. All around him, he saw misshapen or underdeveloped pearls being sold. As a perfectionist, he was disturbed by the pearl industry's greed and disregard for quality, and his reputation eventually reached as far as Japan's Imperial Court.
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.
He opened his first pearl boutique in Tokyo's fashionable shopping district, Ginza, in 1899. His exceptional gems were much sought-after and Mikimoto stores soon followed in London, Paris and other major cities. 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 a 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 honours 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 jewellery, 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, recognised worldwide for superb quality and elegant design.
Tustains jewellers are delighted to be selected as stockists for these beautiful pieces of jewelllery.