Mikimoto Kōkichi revolutionised the Pearl industry when he created and refined the process of culturing Pearls. Before this, the only way to find a Pearl was to come across one by chance, either on the shoreline or by diving and hoping to find a mature Oyster shell. They were incredibly scarce and owned only by society’s wealthiest.
- Name: Mikimoto Kokichi
- Date of Birth: 25th January 1858
- Country of Birth: Toba, Mie Prefecture, Japan
- Date of Death: 21st September 1954 (age 96)
Mikimoto was born in the coastal town of Toba, Mie Prefecture, Japan, in 1858. He was the eldest son of a noodle shop owner and studied in a tiny single-room school. At age 11, his father fell ill, and Mikimoto left school at 13 to sell vegetables and support his family. Observing the Pearl divers in nearby Ise unloading their treasures at the docks began Mikimoto’s Pearl odyssey. At just 20, Mikimoto had noticed that many Pearls were flawed, and his quest to culture the perfect Pearl began.
In 1888, Mikimoto founded his Pearl Oyster farm with his wife and partner Ume. On 11 July 1893, he farmed his first perfectly hemispherical cultured Pearls after many failures. They were cultured by seeding the oyster with a small amount of Mother of Pearl. The first-ever cultured Pearl necklace can still be viewed in the Mikimoto Museum on Pearl Island, near his birthplace. It comprises 49 large, incredibly lustrous, perfectly matched Pearls, all hand-chosen by Mikimoto himself over a ten-year span as he refined and perfected his technique.