The Mikimoto empire owns patents for the manufacture of cultured pearls, produces pearls on an exclusive pearl island and produces its own line of champagne.

During his lifetime, Mikimoto even met Thomas Edison, who proclaimed bewilderedly, “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.” Edison was astounded that Mikimoto could come up with something that was supposed to be ‘biologically impossible.’ The New York Times made mention of their meeting, resulting in Mikimoto pearls’ overnight fame.

It seemed unthinkable, for an invention as groundbreaking as this, to face criticism but it certainly had its fair share. Mikimoto stepped on numerous toes, since the natural pearl industry was irreversibly changed by his invention.

Pearl divers went out of business, and at some point, Mikimoto got sued. The natural pearl dealers saw him as a threat to their livelihood and alleged that his cultured pearls were ‘fakes’. In response, Mikimoto counter-sued producers of imitation pearls, who marketed them as ‘cultured pearls’. What a mess! But his brand prevailed and the legacy of cultured pearls lives on, 60 years on after Mikimoto’s death. Known for the production of the most spherical cultured pearl in the world, Mikimoto’s line of jewellery has received international recognition, and was in fact the manufacturer of the crown for numerous Miss Universe competitions.

It seems that the obsession with pearls dates back to the 17th century, when Dutch artist, Vermeer, painted the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. Interest was piqued when no one could place a finger on the the mysterious relationship between Vermeer and his subject. It is still a subject of discussion and even formed the basis of a film, starring Scarlett Johansson. Even now, the obsession continues in popular culture, where we see popular models like Cara Delevingne rocking “Mise en Dior”.

Scarlett Johanson as the girl with a pearl earring

Scarlett Johansson as the girl with a pearl earring

As for Mikimoto, each string of pearls continues to be handmade to scrupulous perfection. It is also insured for life, so the wearer can walk into any Mikimoto store worldwide to get it re-strung. In fact, it is recommended that a visit to restring the pearls should be made at least least once year, as the silk threads that hold those spherical beauties together may slacken and cause the pearls to tumble. Certainly wouldn’t envy the lady when all ‘pearls’ break loose. It is no wonder pearls are dubbed as luxury items since constant care is mandatory, but for what it does to our overall outfit – priceless.

Mikimoto’s flagship store is now open at ION Orchard #02-04, and is home to exclusive pieces such as the ‘Double Strand Necklace ($96,900), 5 Strand Pearl Necklace ($188,000) and more.