Mikimoto’s 130th Anniversary: Revolutionizing Pearls Beyond Royalty

Mikimoto’s 130th Anniversary Collection. All photos courtesy of mikimoto.com

In a spectacular celebration of the 130th anniversary of cultured pearls, Mikimoto has unveiled an awe-inspiring range of products, beautifully inspired by the sea. This launch by Mikimoto America is a tribute to the brand’s profound connections with marine origins, marking a significant milestone in the illustrious history of the world-renowned pearl brand.

Pearls, historically a symbol of opulence and status, were once exclusive to nobility due to the rarity of naturally occurring high-quality specimens. Their value and significance can be traced back to ancient times, as exemplified by Pliny the Elder’s account of Cleopatra’s extravagant display of wealth and indifference by consuming a dissolved pearl. The Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and Sri Lanka, along with Japan’s ama female pearl divers, narrate the rich history of natural pearl harvesting. However, by the late 1800s, natural pearl reserves dwindled dramatically due to overharvesting and high demand, setting the stage for Kokichi Mikimoto’s revolutionary invention.

Kokichi Mikimoto, a visionary and entrepreneur from Japan, embarked on a quest to create cultured pearls amidst the declining supply of natural pearls. His relentless experimentation culminated in the birth of the world’s first cultured hemispherical pearl in 1893 on Ojima Island, now known as Mikimoto Pearl Island. This marked the inception of a new era in the pearl industry.

The journey of crafting a cultured pearl is intricate and laborious. It involves delicately introducing a nucleus into oysters, triggering a natural defense mechanism that secretes layers of nacre over time, eventually forming the pearl. Mikimoto’s pioneering efforts in this field were solidified with a patent in 1896, and his continued research led to the development of spherical pearls, a hallmark of the brand today.


Mikimoto’s ambition extended beyond innovation; he envisioned adorning women worldwide with pearls. His dream has seen considerable fulfillment over a century, with Mikimoto emerging as a global luxury brand. From its first boutique in Ginza, Tokyo, in 1899, to an international presence in cities like London, New York, and Paris, the brand has showcased the timeless beauty and elegance of cultured pearls.

The “pearl-coloured shop”, the white-stone western-style building facing Ginza Chuo Street attracted widespread attention for its originality. Photo Courtesy from Mikimoto

The brand’s recognition extends to high accolades, such as being named among Japan’s ten greatest inventors by the Japan Patent Office in 1985, an honor shared with pioneers like the discoverers of sodium glutamate and vitamin B1. Even Thomas Edison, the legendary inventor, expressed astonishment at Mikimoto’s ability to culture pearls, a feat he deemed biologically impossible.

Mikimoto’s legacy is not limited to pearl cultivation. The brand has excelled in integrating these precious gems into exquisite jewelry pieces that blend traditional Japanese craftsmanship with European finesse. Since establishing the Mikimoto Gold Work Factory in 1907 and becoming the appointed jeweler for the Japanese royal family in 1924, the brand has continually unveiled stunning high jewelry collections. Its recent “Praise to the Sea” collection, an ode to its aquatic roots, exemplifies this.

Today, Mikimoto’s collections, ranging from the classic Bloom and Feather to the minimalist V Code and the innovative Comme des Garçons collaboration, demonstrate the pearl’s versatility. No longer confined to royal attire, pearls have become a medium of artistic expression and personal freedom, transcending traditional boundaries and signifying both heritage and innovation. As Mikimoto commemorates its 130th anniversary, it continues to redefine the legacy of pearls, weaving a story of beauty, craftsmanship, and enduring elegance.

About The Author

With a double major in Marketing and Japanese from Washington State University, Nicole’s passion for fashion and media perfectly aligned her for the position as Jetset’s VP of Digital Marketing. Having extensive knowledge in both social media marketing and the high-end fashion industry has provided her with unique insight into the world of luxury fashion and the affluent lifestyle. A truly adventurous spirit with an unprecedented passion for helping others makes Nicole a valuable asset to Jetset’s digital team and to our clients. For editorial consideration please contact editor@jetsetmag(dot)com.

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