The British Pearl Association (BPA) is a national trade and consumer interest group originally founded by Louise Tippey. It’s purpose is to promote the growth of the UK and worldwide pearl industry and represents both cultured and natural pearls. Check out how pearls are formed. […]
All members Silver, Gold, Platinum and Pearl are now able to take advantage of discounted printing on a range of products through the new Guild of Jewellery Designers Print Portal in association with Vistaprint. Members can take advantage of preferential pricing of up to 50% […]
Member Profile: Genisi Pearls A precious strand ties Adriano’s story to that of the pearl. It is his pure passion for this wonderful gem that brought him his deep knowledge of the pearl. Adriano’s desire was to want to look closely at the origins of […]
Whether it’s pearl rings, classic strings, or pearl drop earrings every jewellery retailer needs to sell pearls. But have you ever stopped to think about how pearl cultivation began?
Freshwater pearl cultivation dates back as far as the thirteenth century in China, where mabe pearls in the shape of Buddha were produced. Foreign objects were inserted between the outer skin layer (mantle) and the shell of the mollusc would coat it with nacre thus creating a blister pearl.
Kokichi Mikimoto, the son of a noodle shop owner in Japan, first inspired by an exhibition of pearls in Japan in 1878 began to experiment with ways to produce pearls. He adapted the method from China to culture blister pearls in large quantities in the 1890s using the Pinctada fucata oyster and in 1896 he was the first person to be granted a patent.
Mikimoto’s love and passion for pearls drove his commercial spirit and in 1899 he opened his first shop in the Ginza area of Tokyo selling these mabe pearls. However the demand for blister pearls was not enough to sustain the industry. Mikimoto was determined that his journey with pearls wasn’t over and he searched for the answer to the most important question of all; how do I culture pearls?
(Lustrous Cultured Pearls above-Image Courtesy of Jewellery Imaging)
The beginnings of the Cultured Pearl
Finally in 1905 after years of experimenting – he did just that and succeeded to grow a whole pearl. However, while Mikimoto was profiting from his Mabe pearls he didn’t pay much attention to two bright Japanese wannabees doing the same thing. A humble Japanese carpenter, named Tatsuhei Mise and a Japanese researcher, Tokichi Nishikawa had beaten Mikimoto to it.
They both developed the same cultivation method and Mise and Nishikawa discovered that to produce a round pearl three key elements were needed- the nucleus needed to be inserted within the body of the oyster together with a piece of nacre secreting mantle tissue. This piece of nacre secreting tissue ensures the formation of a pearl sac around the nucleus so that the nacre will be deposited. In 1907 they both realised their dream and were awarded their licenses from the Japanese government.
Mikimoto -Pearl Pioneer
Although Mikimoto was not the first to produce a round cultured pearl, interestingly yet not surprisingly he is still considered to be the “Pearl King”, (a phrase coined by a newspaper reporter in the 1920s).
Mikimoto was a resilient man with an incredible vision. He knew that the warm waters along the southern coast of Japan were the ideal conditions for pearl farming. He first began farming akoya pearls along the 1000 km coastline of the Mie Prefecture and akoya cultured pearl farms still thrive there today.
In 1926 the term “cultured pearl “was first born when the First International Jewellers’ Congress adopted the term. The term stuck.
By 1938, Mikimoto had grown his enterprise to 360 pearl farms in Japan, reaching a production peak of nearly 11,000,000 pearls (Pearls as One, 2016).
Mikimoto remained devoted to the development of the cultured pearl industry until his death in 1954. It was his dedication and the techniques of Mise and Nishikawa that we owe the success of the cultured pearl industry today.
Mikimotos’ dream was to “adorn the necks of all women around the world with pearls”.
And he succeeded in adorning the necks of some of the most beautiful and famous women in the world. In 1954 Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio travelled to Japan for their honeymoon, where Joe DiMaggio presented Marilyn with a Mikimoto pearl necklace. Mikimoto would be a very proud man today.
Since the early days of pearl cultivation and the huge rise in global pearl production in China in the 1960s , Australia and South East Asia, pearls no longer remain the gem of the rich and famous .
Today, however, as new techniques emerge and China takes over survival for the next generation Japanese akoya pearl farmer means the need to be even more innovative and technically savvy if they are to compete with an ever growing competitive market.
Member Profile: Heidi Kjeldsen Heidi Kjeldsen Ltd is a fine jewellers in the heart of Oakham, Rutland, established in 1998 and renowned for meticulous craftsmanship and timeless bespoke jewellery. From exquisitely elegant diamond, pearl and gemstone designs to contemporary Murano glass jewellery, every piece is lovingly […]
Member Profile: Damian Miles Damian Miles is a jeweller, goldsmith, silversmith, gemmologist, jewellery valuer and pearl stringer with over 20 years experience. He loves to create one of a kind and limited run pieces of jewellery, silverware and luxury objects. He also offers a jewellery repair […]
Member Profile: Samuel Jones Pearls
Samuel Jones Pearls is the UK’s oldest and leading wholesale cultured pearl supplier. The family-run business, now Midlands based, was established in 1916 and prides itself on the outstanding quality of its pearls and exceptional service delivered to customers across the UK.
They have an extensive range of hand selected freshwater, cultured, Tahitian and South Sea pearls that exceed the expectations of many customers.
It continually updates its ranges of 9 and 18 carat jewellery and seeks to produce the highest standards of manufacturing using in-house designers.
They produce the vast majority of its pearl jewellery both in Evesham and their workshop in Birmingham.
They also offer comprehensive repairs, restringing and cleaning services. They are proud of their “never say no” mantra.
Get in touch with them on firstname.lastname@example.org
or 01386 41430
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Our first ever pearl design Competition, in collaboration with The Guild of Jewellery Designers and Ping Ping Jewellery came to a close last week . The competition was designed to highlight the excellence in jewellery designing talent both in the UK and overseas. The competition […]
Pearls My Continued Passion
Hello & Welcome!
How the time fly’s since my last chat with you!
It has been a busy few months creating pretty seasonal windows and themed celebration windows. It seems this year the blossom has looked even more spectacular and the flowers just a riot of colour! This wonderful explosion of colour has been transferred to the cat walks in rich earthy colours, pastels, and floral designs. All crying out for our beautiful pearls! Layering is the key to wearing pearls and jewellery in general this year! Personally I have no objection to be laden with jewels…..
Pearls-Aesthetically Ethical I am an ethical jeweller as well as jewellery designer and gemmologist all rolled into one. Often these three sides have ructions, wrestling to see who comes out on top. But last year I found a source that satisfies all three. As ethical initiatives […]