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Mikimoto and History of Mikimoto Pearls

It was not until shortly after 1890, more than one hundred years after Linné, that a Japanese named Kokichi Mikimoto invented, or rather re-invented, a method based on the Chinese pearl culture example. Mikimoto was to be the first to develop a reproducible method for the mass production of cultured pearls. Production of truly round, cultured pearls according to yet another method started in 1916, and signaled the worldwide victory of the Japanese cultured pearl.

Mikimoto is considered a national hero in Japan, and school children are taught his life story from an early age. Mikimoto was born in the small harbour town of Toba on Ise peninsula on January 25, 1858. He had unusually large earlobes, which are considered a sign of future wealth in Japan. Kokichi Mikimoto was the eldest son of Otokichci Mikimoto, a noodle maker in the lowest class in Toba at the time.

At the tender age of 11, Mikimoto was forced into the role of provider for the family, when his father fell ill. He investigated for himself the quarter of the pearl dealers in Yokohama, Tokyo in 1878. In1887, the Dowager Empress bought pearls from Mikimoto, and the fame that cam with this recommendation proved helpful when he participated at the National Exhibition of Marine Products in Tokyo in 1888. The first so-called "Mikimoto Pearls" were harvested in 1898, and Europe started to become award of the new pearl product from Japan.

In 1901, Mikimoto published the first extensive catalogue, presenting his first jewelry designs, influenced by western style. He opened a new store directly on Ginza Street, and at the beginning of World War II, a whole chain of Mikimoto shops had opened.