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MIKIMOTO History

“My dream is to adorn the necks of all women around the world with pearls.” - The founder, Kokichi Mikimoto

Our founder, Kokichi Mikimoto devoted his life to pearls and was called the Pearl King. In 1893, he etched his name in history when he successfully creating the world's first cultured pearls. Ever since, his lifelong dream of “adorning the necks of all women around the world with pearls” has lived on through Mikimoto, a company that has dedicated itself to the pursuit of beauty for over a century.

Having succeeded in creating the world's first cultured pearl, the history of Mikimoto has begun.

Before the development of cultured pearls, only natural pearls were available, which were mere products of chance. Less than one in a thousand oyster shells may produce a pearl during their lifetime. Relentless in the pursuit of beauty, Kokichi Mikimoto decided to try culturing pearls that are loved by people all over the world. He was a dreamer and he did not let his dream die. He became the first in the world to successfully culture a semi-spherical pearl in 1893. He continued his attempt to culture many different types of pearls, including black and white South Sea cultured pearls in addition to perfectly round pearls, hence becoming the originator of cultured pearls.

From Ginza onto the global stage. Mikimoto opened a store in Paris' Place Vendôme, realizing yet another one of his dreams.

In a time when the world was much bigger than it feels like today, Kokichi Mikimoto was already aiming for global recognition. Japan's first pearl specialty boutique, the Mikimoto Pearl Store was opened in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district in 1899. Subsequently, Mikimoto opened seven international stores in prime locations before the Second World War, including London's New Bond Street and New York's 5th Avenue. In 1986, Mikimoto's Paris store was relocated to Place Vendôme. It was another dream come true for him. To this day, Mikimoto is the only Asian high jewellery brand in this prestigious location. Carving a path from the past into the future, we continue to produce high jewellery of majestic beauty and brilliance to satisfy the aesthetic needs of our customers, from royalty and aristocracy to jewellery lovers all over the world.

The Mikimoto Gold Work Factory (around 1913)

The pioneer who laid the groundwork for modern jewellery industry in Japan through promoting beauty and culture of jewellery.

Kokichi Mikimoto quickly began to broaden his scope of interest, producing jewellery using gems other than pearls. He sent skilled craftsmen to Europe to learn the very latest design techniques and styles in jewellery, including Art Deco and Art Nouveau. Using the experience and knowledge they brought back from Europe, he spent decades skillfully blending traditional Japanese metalworking craftsmanship and European manufacturing techniques to create the distinctive Mikimoto style. Going beyond being the originator of cultured pearls, he succeeded in building the foundation for modern jewellery production in Japan. We are proud that we have been instrumental in introducing beauty and culture of jewellery to Japan.

Pearl Museum Collection at Mikimoto Pearl Island

Exhibited at the 1937 World Exposition in Paris, the legendary Yaguruma Sash Clip wowed the world and led the brand to worldwide recognition.

Kokichi Mikimoto had a true talent for promoting his pearls while surprising the world with amazing creations. Apart from using newspapers and advertisements, he proactively participated in international exhibitions. He did not just show pearls as they were, but always made elaborate presentations to ensure they were extremely eye-catching. Through his efforts, Mikimoto established a strong presence as the pioneer in cultivation, processing and sales of pearls in the world. Focusing his attention overseas, he held an exhibition at the 1937 Paris International Exposition featuring the Yaguruma Sash Clip which could be used in dozens of different configurations. The unique piece of jewellery generated a great deal of admiration for its creative and innovative ideas.

Mikimoto Paris Store back then. The name of the store on the sign was later changed.

Having won the Paris trial, Mikimoto pearls were finally acknowledged as gems in the world's jewellery markets.

In 1921, an article was published in a London newspaper claiming that “cultured pearls sold by a certain Japanese merchant are only imitations of real pearls and it is misleading to label them as pearls when they are not.” The attack on cultured pearls as fraudulent became so vehement, developing into a lawsuit later known as “the Paris trial,” trying to prove that cultured pearls were fakes. However, highly reputable scholars testified in support of the scientific view that there is no fundamental difference between natural and cultured pearls. Finally, after three years, Mikimoto won the legal battle in the French court, letting cultured pearls make their way out of the courtroom and onto the world. Through this process, Mikimoto and its cultured pearls gained reputation worldwide.

A letter from Thomas Edison

The America's greatest inventor, Thomas Edison was in awe of Mikimoto's cultured pearls. He remarked, “It is one of the wonders of the world that you were able to culture pearls.”

In 1927, during a tour to the United States and Europe, Kokichi Mikimoto met with a fellow inventor, Thomas Edison. Admiring the Mikimoto pearl that Kokichi presented to him, Edison declared, “This isn't a cultured pearl, it's a real pearl. There are two things which couldn't be made at my laboratory - diamonds and pearls. It is one of the wonders of the world that you were able to culture pearls. It is something which is supposed to be biologically impossible.” Kokichi was greatly encouraged by the words of the man who truly understood the value of his innovation.

1893

World's first cultured pearl

Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in creating the world's first cultured pearl

1899

Opened MIKIMOTO Pearl Store

The first MIKIMOTO Pearl Store opened in Kyobashi-ku, Yazaemon-cho (now Ginza 4-chome, Namiki Street)

1905

World's first spherical cultured pearl

Kokichi Mikimoto continued his research more than ten years after the invention of the semispherical pearl to finally succeed at inventing a perfectly round pearl.

1906

A newly built MIKIMOTO Pearl Store moved to Ginza 4-chome (now Chuo Street)

Referred to as the "pearl-coloured shop", the white-stone western-style building facing Ginza Chuo Street attracted widespread attention for its originality.

1907

Established MIKIMOTO Gold Work Factory

MIKIMOTO opened Japan's first dedicated full-scale gold and jewellery work factory in the Tsukiji district of Tokyo.

1908

Launching of the catalogue "Pearl"

The book "Pearl" was the jewellery catalogue of the time. It was not simply for promoting products, but was also designed to give a comprehensive outline of the jewellery's history and cultural background. Published from 1908 to 1938.

1913

Opened London Store

Looking to expand overseas, MIKIMOTO chose London to open its first overseas branch.

1924

Official permit from the Japanese Royal warrant granted by Japanese Imperial Household Agency

1924

Paris Trial

A pearl trial in Paris saw papers and articles written by scholars claim that cultured pearls and natural pearls were identical.

1927

Opened New York Store

New York Store opened in Delmonico Building on Fifth Avenue

1928

Opened Paris Store

Established a base in Paris. The name on shop's sign was corrected soon after.

1932

Burning of inferior pearls

Kokichi Mikimoto burned inferior pearls in front of the Kobe Chamber of Commerce demonstrating his commitment to maintaining the quality standards of Japanese pearls, both domestically and abroad.

1937

Exhibited the "Yaguruma" at the Paris Exposition

"Yaguruma" – a multifunctional sash clip for kimono represents the high craftsmanship of MIKIMOTO. It is interchangeable to dozen of different form of settings. (Pearl Museum Collection at Mikimoto Pearl Island)

1951

Emperor Showa's royal visit to Tatoku Pearl Farm.

1965

Established Mikimoto Pearl Jewellery Ltd. in Hong Kong

Mikimoto Pearl Jewellery Ltd. was established as a joint venture with Hong Kong's Lane Crawford department store

1966

Donated pearl crown to "Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival"

The photo is of the crown donated to the first "Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival" Queen.
At the time, there were numerous requests from both Japan and overseas, for various designs of crowns.

1973

MIKIMOTO featured in "PARIS VOGUE"

In 1973, the international fashion magazine "Paris VOGUE" featured the highly acclaimed "MIKIMOTO Pearls" for its September issue.

1974

The completion of the Ginza 4-chome flagship store.

This was the eighth building since the inception of the business in Ginza.

1986

Opened Paris Store on Place Vendôme.

1995

Opened London Store on New Bond Street.

1995

New York Store was relocated to its current location on Fifth Avenue.

2004

The first retail store in China opened in Shanghai.

2005

Opened Mikimoto Ginza2 Store in Ginza 2-chome.

2007

Established a new Pearl Farm in Ainoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.

2016

Opened a flagship store in the historical shopping landmark of Hong Kong, 1881 Heritage.

2016

Published a visual book, “The Pearl Necklace.”

2017

Celebrated the grand opening of the Ginza Main Store.