Mikimoto: A Passion for Perfection
by Chantal Namour Baz
The year 1893 saw the birth of the world’s very first cultured pearl at the hands of Kokichi Mikimoto, a man of great passion and persistence, a scientist, marine biologist and accomplished genius of his time. That first attempt prompted the beginning of a lifetime work that evolved into a legacy that still continues today, more than 100 years later. From that tiny semi-spherical pearl emerged one of the most luxurious high jewelry brands in Japan and the world today. Mikimoto is a brand that is constantly propelled forward by its passion for perfection, which manifests itself in every intricate creation.
“It takes six months to create a piece,” explained Jeremy Burbanks, Mikimoto’s European & Middle East Sales Manager, as he described the process of turning Mikimoto’s pearls into some of the finest jewelry that exists today. “There’s a very special and complex technique that is used for inlaying metal and pearls called piqué, an art in itself, and we have a lot of pieces that are inlayed with both platinum and yellow gold, both pearl and mother of pearl. Our pieces are very different and intricate and the attention to detail is nothing short of staggering!”
Beauty is not the only fabulous feature of Mikimoto’s jewels, the immense creativity in design and the purposes some pieces are crafted for are a source of pure delight, especially when given as a gift to a loved one. “Some rings come with a tiny button, which when pressed pops the cover open to reveal a space that allows you to insert a little photograph, lock of hair or any special memento small enough to fit inside,” smiled Burbanks.
A Multi-faceted Mikimoto
Mikimoto is jeweler to the Imperial family in Japan, and it is also in the top five jewelry brands in the world with a sizeable number of stores in its home country and around the globe, a number that is constantly growing. “We have around 120 stores, our main store in Tokyo is comprised of six floors, and we have a second building which is 14 floors. It’s an eye-catching pink tower with a designer architecture style, in it you will find bridal suites, spas, restaurants, and retail,” said Burbanks.
Pearls are certainly beautiful when worn as jewels, but this stunning stone from the sea carries cosmetic properties that deliver an elixir from the fountain of youth into your skin to infuse it with a marvelously lustrous and youthful appearance. With that in mind, Mikimoto also branches out with its use of pearls and boasts a cosmetics division that integrates the materials from pearls in their creams and products.
The Mikimoto experience does not stop at retail though and extends to cultural tourism on the Mikimoto Pearl Island. “The island is a tourist attraction; it’s close to where Mr. Mikimoto cultured the first pearl. You can dive for oysters there and there are other recreational activities to enjoy,” said Burbanks. “You can also see items on display that were previously owned by celebrities; for instance, we have a piece from 1954 that Joe DiMaggio bought from Mikimoto on his honeymoon with Marilyn Monroe in Tokyo, and we were lucky enough to buy it back. There are many great stories!”
Mikimoto’s story of success is truly inspiring. A man followed his dream with complete faith in finding a way to culture pearls at a period of time that lacked today’s level of advanced scientific and technological resources, and then overcome the obstacles of culture, language and travel difficulties to establish a global brand. “The company opened offices in Bombay, Paris, London and Chicago between 1910 and 1915. Until the mid 1920s we actually had the patents on worldwide production of cultured pearls, the technique that he used is still used today to culture pearls,” said Burbanks.
Loved in the Far East and Europe, Mikimoto has also become a favorite brand in the GCC markets with a growing presence in Qatar and several other countries in the region. “We have benefited immensely from just over a decade of exposure in Qatar, where the brand is going from strength to strength. We bring pieces that correspond to the taste of the people and if you ask me what the taste of the people is, I would say they have a passion for unique things. In Qatar they understand and appreciate the quality of the craftsmanship and the finish. This year we do have a particular direction: we have some wedding sets. We actually started with that last year and it proved to be very popular.”
The brand has recently celebrated its 120th anniversary, and with it some grand plans to keep growing their global outreach with a booming market in China and discussions for new locations in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Mikimoto is also a globetrotting brand, participating in prestigious events and exhibitions that have included the Doha Jewelry & Watches Expo in Qatar and Baselworld in Switzerland. “Everything we bring to exhibitions and special events is new. We had a special event where we launched a fantastic collection in conjunction with the Paris Fashion Week for a Hello Kitty theme; we created crazy stuff like high jewelry tiaras with strawberry diamonds! It generated a great amount of publicity and PR. We also had an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was about the history of the pearl, and that was great to be a part of!” enthused Burbanks.
Mikimoto’s treasures from the sea are a reflection of taste, an appreciation of art and creativity, a testament to never losing hope in your vision, a labor of true love and some of the finest jewels fit for the most discerning jewelry connoisseurs. Adorn yourself with legendry creations that are set to sparkle in the midst of the stars!