Precious places: Mikimoto’s love letter to the sea

The pioneer of cultured pearl jewellery celebrates 130 years

Japanese pearl jewellery specialist Mikimoto celebrates its 130th anniversary this year. Founded by Kokichi Mikimoto in 1893, the eponymous brand is the original pioneer of cultured pearl jewellery. Driven by a desire to capture the unique allure of pearls, Mikimoto established a research centre on Tatoku Island in Japan where he succeeded in cultivating fully spherical pearls. This led to him being named one of Japan’s top 10 greatest inventors by the Japanese government in 1930. Today, the Mikimoto Pearl Research Laboratory in Japan’s Mie Prefecture district continues to explore the possibilities of pearl cultivation, alongside preservation of the marine ecosystem.

To mark the 130-year anniversary, Mikimoto has released a series of short films titled A Love Letter to the Sea, which pay homage to the beauty of the sea and Mikimoto’s coexistence with this wonder of nature. The six-chapter series celebrates the essence of the sea and seeks to acknowledge that humans are a part of nature and nature is a part of human existence.

‘Ise Bay, where we captured the coexistence with the sea in the film, is magnificent yet serene,’ says film director Asako Aeba. ‘You can genuinely feel nature in your soul and body. It is a special place of supreme Japanese beauty, so mysterious that it is hard to describe in words. Every scene after sunrise and sunset is symbolic, pure and peaceful. The location symbolises the one and only Mikimoto pearl, which retains its elegance, enduring presence and natural beauty.’

To learn more about the world of pearls, a visit to Mikimoto Pearl Island in the Bay of Toba, at the mouth of Ise Bay, is a highly recommended experience. Visitors can learn all about pearl cultivation and view a collection of historical pearl creations at the museum, visit a memorial hall dedicated to the life and work of Kokichi Mikimoto and discover an array of Mikimoto jewellery designs in the gift shop. A key attraction is the memorable display by ama (sea women) free divers, wearing their ethereal white diving clothes, showcasing how traditional pearl harvesting would have been done.

Mikimoto designed rigorous criteria that each and every pearl must meet in order to be included in a design. The five-point system assesses the lustre, shape, size, colour and nacre thickness – which determines the lustre and durability of the pearl. Today, Mikimoto is synonymous with the finest cultured pearls and its meticulously crafted jewellery creations – from classic strings of pearls to contemporary designs and settings – can be seen adorning the world’s most admired personalities.


Gemma Klasmer is based in London and is associate editor at Brummell magazine 

Link to short films: 130th.mikimoto.com/en

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