Say the name “Mikimoto” and you conjure up images of gorgeous, lustrous white pearls demurely wrapped around a graceful neck.
We think glamour.
We think opulence.
Indeed, today the name of Mikimoto is synonymous with luxury in the pearl industry … and for pearl lovers spanning the globe.
Even with this high-profile reputation, we still field many questions about the Mikimoto Pearl Company almost daily. Keep reading to learn the answers to our most-asked questions about the legendary Mikimoto Pearls.
The term “Mikimoto pearls” is a bit of a misnomer … a Mikimoto pearl is not a pearl type, it is the brand name of a jewelry house that creates pearl jewelry using all pearl types.
That said, Mikimoto’s specializes in the sublime, lustrous Japanese Akoya pearl. The Akoya pearl comes from the Pinctada fucata martensii pearl oyster which is native to the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean surrounding Japan.
It was over a century ago that Kokichi Mikimoto created the world’s first cultured Akoya pearl. His tireless work spanned decades and built the legendary jewelry house dedicated to some of the most intricate and meticulously crafted pearl jewelry the world has ever seen.
While Mikimoto Pearls is famous for their Japanese Akoya, this jewelry house also works with other high-quality pearl types to create their dazzling jewelry. Exotic Black Tahitian pearls (they call them Black South Sea) and White and Golden South Sea pearls are also prominently featured in their collections.
In fact, some of their finest work is done with these more exotic pearl types (see the Ombré necklace below).
One of my favorite exotic pearls that Mikimoto started working with is the delicately colored pink Conch pearl, found only in the Caribbean seas. Miki’s has also expanded their natural pearl collections to include the delectable orange to golden-hued Melo-Melo pearls from the South China Sea as well!
With all that said, Mikimoto’s will always be known for their Japanese Akoya pearls, and this remains a primary focus for their jewelry designs.
Mikimoto Akoya pearls can range from as low as $300 for a pair of 7.0mm Akoya pearl stud earrings to as high as $500,000 or more depending on the pearls and the collections you are looking at.
For a fine quality strand of classic Japanese Akoya pearls ranging from 5.0-8.5mm, you can expect to spend minimum $3,000 up to $7,000 or so (and of course, finer qualities are available upon request!).
The Japanese Akoya Pearl Necklace and Earring Set from Mikimoto, 6.5-7.0mm size retails for $3,080.00 at Mikimoto America.
More exotic pearl types like Tahitian and South Sea pearls begin around $8,000 for their simple pearl necklaces and go up from there.
Just because I absolutely adore Mikimoto's High Jewelry Collections, let's take a look at another dazzling design before moving on:
This magnificent Wreath Necklace by Mikimoto features 12.0-13.0mm White South Sea pearls from Australia, surrounded by pear-shape and round-brilliant diamonds weighing 53.98cttw approximately, mounted in 18K White Gold. This exquisite creation retails for $700,000.00
Mikimoto has its own proprietary grading system for their pearls, and only carries pearls with excellent luster and thick, fine quality nacre.
Mikimoto's Japanese Akoya pearls are sourced from the top 5% of each yearly harvest, and then sorted into their various grades from there.
Within that top 5%, there are 4 major grades: A, A+, AA and AAA Quality, which is their highest/best pearl quality.
They also feature 4 grade variants within this system: A1, A+1, AA1 and AAA1 … the “1” denotes pearls that will have slightly more blemished surfaces.
Mikimoto’s pearl grading pyramid.
Here’s a more detailed chart posted on Pearl-Guide.com but as you can see, they removed their sub-grades A+1, AA1 and AAA1 on this older diagram:
Note on this chart that even Mikimoto’s AAA Grade will feature a very few tiny blemishes and growth characteristics on their pearl’s surfaces.
Unfortunately finding the exact benchmarks for their grading scale is a murky proposition (believe me, I’ve tried!), so it’s difficult for us to give you a cut-and-dried explanation of what to expect.
Thankfully, Mikimoto’s grading system does appear to translate easily to the A-AAA Pearl Grading Scale used by most reputable pearl specialists in the U.S.!
Mikimoto opened his first pearl boutique on the world-famous Ginza Street in Tokyo, Japan in 1901. Over time, Mikimoto’s remarkable cultured pearls gained widespread recognition and acceptance with jewelers and the public alike.
By the start of World War II he had opened jewelry stores in Shanghai, London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles.
Photo and vintage Mikimoto advertisement with permission from Rui Galopim de Carvalho FGA DGA
Today, flagship Mikimoto locations can be found in major cities all over the world, but you do not need to go to Rodeo Drive to purchase pearls from Mikimoto (although I can tell you it is quite the experience and I would recommend it to anybody!).
A flagship Mikimoto retail location - this place is perfect for "putting on the Ritz!"
You can find genuine Mikimoto pearl jewelry online at their site, Mikimoto America, which is the best place to go if you want the experience of purchasing directly from Mikimoto online.
Other authorized dealers offer Mikimoto pearl jewelry, but the pearls are not the AAA Grade that is reserved for their flagship locations exclusively.
Major retail jewelers carrying Mikimoto pearls include J.R. Dunn, Tara Fine Jewelry, Ben Bridge Jewelers and Nordstrom’s among others.
Vintage Mikimoto jewelry can be found (if you have the knowledge about how to hunt for these collectibles) on eBay and 1st Dibs, Ruby Lane and Etsy.
Both “Blue Lagoon” and “Sea Magic” pearl lines are from Mikimoto, but they are a lower quality Akoya pearl that is distributed to commercial jewelry chains such as Zales or Kay Jewelers.
These are pearls that are geared specifically to not compete with Mikimoto’s higher-end, more lustrous pearls sold at their flagship boutiques (don't get me wrong though - they are still quite lovely pearls!).
Mikimoto actually has 5 different pearl lines sold under different brands within the U.S., and they are:
Zales Signature Collection
Gordon’s Classic Collection
Pearls are often set with Sterling Silver, 10K and 14K Gold clasps and mountings, and feature the top 6-10% of each yearly Akoya pearl harvest versus Mikimoto’s top 5% sold under their official brand name.
These pearl lines offer a good opportunity to purchase a “Mikimoto brand” pearl, but at a fraction of the price with the trade-off that the pearls will have a step down in luster and slightly more surface blemishing.
My answer: Maybe.
Let me be straight here ... Mikimoto Pearls has some of the highest quality, most beautiful pearls in the world. Period. End of story.
I am a HUGE fan, and regularly feature Miki’s couture designs on my blog.
If you are looking for serious, luxury-level pearls with the legendary Mikimoto branding, then go for it! You will be incredibly happy with the money you’ve spent, guaranteed.
… On the other hand …
It’s good to keep in mind that Mikimoto no longer cultures their own pearls and does in fact purchase them from the same vendors and farms that other larger retailers do.
So if you are not in the market to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a pearl necklace, then it might be a good idea to shop around a bit and find out where the best place to buy pearls is for you.
Well, pardon me tooting Pure’s horn, but I think we do alright.
We are not equivalent to Miki’s famed AAA grade – you know, those “best-of-the-best-anybody-has-ever-seen” pearls (and to be perfectly frank, even Mikimoto’s only has one or two of those strands that ship from store to store upon request … these are not pearls found just anywhere!) … but I think Pure Pearls offers an excellent selection of lustrous, fine quality Akoya pearls without breaking your bank account.
Comparatively here at Pure, Akoya Pearl Earrings start at $109, and our most popular Akoya Pearl Necklace measuring 7.0-7.5mm starts at just $672.00.
For those looking for the highest quality Akoya pearls online (barring the $50,000 AAA Mikimoto pearls of course!) I cannot recommend our Certified Hanadama Akoya Pearl Collection enough.
Hanadama Akoya pearls represent the cream of the crop when it comes to each year’s Akoya pearl harvest. Hand-selected during the harvest for their thick nacre, intensely reflective luster and shimmering iridescence, these are some of the highest quality pearls you can purchase today.
Tahitian Pearl Necklaces start at around $1,000, and fine, AAA Quality Tahitian Pearl Earrings start at just $328.00.
The Queen of Cultured Pearls, White and Golden South Sea Pearl Necklaces begin at about $1,275.00.
All of our pearl jewelry is created by hand, to order, here at our Southern California workshops, meaning you have an opportunity to have the pearl jewelry of your dreams tailored exactly to your tastes by a specialty boutique that lives and breathes pearls.
By operating with reduced overhead (no expensive advertising budgets, no fancy retail locations) and cutting out the middlemen by buying our pearls direct from the pearl farmers and auctions themselves, we can save our customers THOUSANDS of dollars on similar purchases from luxury brands.
Bottom line: No matter where you buy your pearls from, my #1 recommendation is to always do your research first so you feel comfortable with your purchase, and you have a solid idea of what to expect.
What do you think? Would you splurge on the Miki's? Leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you!
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