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The pearl whisperer

Martha Taylor-Brown |
"I would like to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls," sounds like an unachievable dream. Kokichi Mikimoto was the first human being who had ever created a pearl. After that, his dream came very close to reality.

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The famous sentence Kokichi Mikimoto said shortly after he succeeded in culturing a perfectly round pearl. The elegant beauty of Kokichi's cultured pearls was eventually recognized by women throughout the world, and his wish was fulfilled, as the name "Mikimoto" became well-known around the globe. With his keen, instinctive sense of beauty, Kokichi was man who devoted his life to the cultured pearls and pearl jewellery that he loved and set his hopes upon.

The pearl oysters around Mikimoto's hometown of Ise-Shima were being over-harvested to a crisis point. He threw himself into the task of seeding oysters and creating pearls, and for decades, he spent every waking hour on research and experiments. Pearls had always been a chance product of nature and initial efforts to delve into their mysteries did not yield immediate results. Factors such as red tides and low water temperatures lead to repeated failures.

Regardless of the many complications imposed by nature, Kokichi pledged to commit every fibre of his being to the task and he had the stubborn confidence to turn mighty nature into his ally. The day he had been waiting for finally came on July 11, 1893. In the company of his wife Ume, he raised one of the bamboo oyster baskets out of the water, opened one of the oysters, and there, inside the shell, he discovered a shining pearl. This was the first time in history that a human being had ever created a pearl.

Once he had succeeded in culturing a pearl, Kokichi's urge to research grew even stronger. He had always been enchanted by the mysterious glow of the legendary black lipped pearls and silver lipped pearls, and he made up his mind to try culturing them. In 1914, Kokichi opened a culturing site for Black South Sea pearl oysters on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa. Overcoming the often daunting forces of nature, including continual typhoons, in 1931 he turned his fantasy into reality with the production of a giant pearl, 10mm in diameter. Today, the name Mikimoto is the synonym for the best pearls in the world.

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