Japanese cultured pearls, their origins

japanese culture pearls

Last week I received by mail like every month, Contrast. One of the monthly newspapers to which I am subscribed published by the “Duplex Group”. And reading this article titled Japanese Cultured Pearls, I thought I could share it on my jewelry design blog with you. I found it interesting to explain so clearly how they were the beginnings in the cultivation of Japanese pearls. With a touch of history and mixed with the mess of who was the first and who could prove it, although this time with a happy ending. I hope you like it

Japanese Cultured Pearls

Man has always wanted to win the battle against nature and if an economic gain is in sight, we can already get an idea.

Man has always wanted to generate pearls of any kind in mollusks that appear naturally. Initially, it seems that with religious reasons, inserting some small lead Buddhas in freshwater mussels so that they were covered by the incredible nacre that they produced.

We have news of these first experiments from the thirteenth century. It was not until the end of the 19th century when several “interested” in the subject, with hardly any scientific basis, began to experiment with the cultivation of pearls, all at their own pace and in secret. You have to be smart and have a lot of patience to make an experiment like this work and have good results. But if we want to exploit it, we also have to be very smart, and that happened with a group of Japanese around 1896. It is on this date that Mikimoto, a fast food vendor of the time, patented his blister pearl cultivation system, the that today we know as Mabe, They are half pearls formed from a nucleus that remains adhered to the shell of the mollusk and that must be cut and carried out a “filling and embellished” treatment in order to be able to market them and mount them in jewels.

japanese people working with pearls

After sawing them from the shell, the original nucleus is extracted, leaving only the layer of nacre that the mollusk has generated around it. Subsequently, a color treatment is carried out on that layer of mother-of-pearl to achieve a whiter or gray color or the color that the pearl holder wants to sell at that time, being able to find the most varied colors on the market. Then a false core is placed with a cementitious to strengthen the pearl and make it more resistant to shocks, although surely everyone will have verified that Mabe pearls break very easily, and finally a lower mother-of-pearl cap is placed to leave them with a good finish and ready to be mounted on a jewel. These are the first cultured pearls that were obtained in the past 20th century.

But we said that if we want to sell something new we have to be very smart and register it, and that was the case with Mikimoto. Other countrymen of his were practicing pearl culture at home and it seems to be more successful, especially cyst pearls, whole pearls, more or less spherical. It was a carpenter, equally “interested” in pearls, named Mise, who obtained the first complete spherical pearls in 1899. And around the same time the first scientist, a worker in the Japanese fisheries council, named Nishikawa, was working in the first scientific projects of pearl culture and already with certain achievements.

As the smartest is the one who takes the cat to the water, it seems that the scientist, with more experience than the others in these struggles, was the first to apply for the patent, followed by the other two, but it does not seem that it worked very well. Well the bureaucracy of the time, since it was first Mikimoto who was granted the patent, and who remained as the inventor of the method. Later another patent was given to Nishikawa, a few days before Mise could receive a reply to her application. The carpenter was the one who discovered the spherical pearl cultivation system, the fast food vendor who took the tributes, and the executive of the Japanese fishing council who received permission to grow and put the cultured pearls up for sale.

But since we are not for many lawsuits and everything was fixed then with a good wedding, they were paired between the families until they got a good project to fill the market with wonderful pearls that until then were very rare and only for the enjoyment of a privileged few. It was the year 1910 when they began to take the fruit of so much study and patent mess.

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