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Mikimoto Original Strand of First Viable Cultured Pearls, circa 1920s
Mikimoto Kōkichi became fascinated with pearls as a young child in Japan. He would in time invent a process for creating what became the first cultured pearl —a blister pearl— and later seed pearls and half-pearls. In 1920 Mikimoto achieved his ultimate goal when he successfully cultured the first commercially viable round pearls. The necklace featured here is an extraordinarily rare and 100% original strand of early 1920s cultured Akoya pearls created by Mikimoto, the Japanese company founded by Mikimoto Kōkichi. This historically significant necklace pre-dates the 1937 World Exposition in Paris at which Mikimoto displayed a brilliantly innovative and unique jewel featuring his miraculous and perfect cultured pearls together with diamonds, emeralds and calibre cut sapphires: the Yaguruma Sash Clip. It was this piece of jewelry that placed Mikimoto front and center on the world stage. The early 19" Art Deco necklace you see her was created before Mikimoto had established himself as a legend. Composed of 101 luminous round pearls that range in size from 3.33 mm to 7.06 mm. The pearls display excellent luminosity and orient. They are a creamy-white color with gold overtones. These pearls more strongly resemble natural, uncultured pearls because of their thick, high-quality nacre. Nacre (pronounced NAY-ker) is the luminous, magical substance of which natural pearls are composed. Cultured pearls contain a bead of shell or tissue around which nacre forms. Nacre takes time to develop. But the longer a pearl remains in the mollusk, the greater the chances for irregularities and imperfections to occur. So one must balance the time allowed for thick nacre to occur while at the same time achieving a round pearl without blemishes or pitting. Today, it's common for a commercial-quality cultured pearl to spend as few as eight months in the water achieving a bead-round pearl with high luster but at the price of thin nacre which can wear-away in very little time. However, early cultured pearls like these remained in the water for much longer —sometimes years— resulting in a very thick layer of nacre. Which is why these pearls have such extraordinary luster and orient. "Orient" is the play of light —the glow— that seems to come from within the pearl and not all pearls display orient because thick nacre is required for this display to occur. For many years I sought a strand of antique Mikimoto pearls because I have always been especially fascinated by an artist's first work, not necessarily their most famous. Over the years I have encountered many strands of pearl necklaces purporting to be from the 1920s but each strand I encountered had an issue: either the pearls had been re-strung —breaking the chain of authenticity— or the necklace had a generic and not a proper Mikimoto clasp. Then I located this necklace. In pristine condition and with its original, proprietary hand-fabricated silver clasp hallmarked "s" for silver and featuring an "M" within a shell: the iconic Mikimoto logo. The clasp is set with a single 4 mm pearl. It functions perfectly. I am the second owner of this necklace, having purchased it from its original owner who obviously wore the necklace with great care and never allowed it to make contact with other items of jewelry because the condition of the pearls is truly outstanding. Even the original 100-year-old silk string remains viable. I can see no evidence that these pearls were ever submerged in water or damaged by makeup or perfume. It's quite incredible. As a certified professional gemologist with additional training in pearls, I can tell you that it is more difficult to find a pristine, original strand of Mikimoto pearls from the early 1920s than it is to find a necklace of uncultured pearls. Contemporary Mikimoto pearls are astounding and I say this as somebody who generally prefers natural, uncultured pearls. The quality of a Mikimoto cultured Akoya pearl is simply unrivaled. Today's Mikimoto pearls are uniform in shape, color and luster. This necklace exhibits just the slightest variation among the pearls with some ever so gently more golden than others; this one perhaps more perfectly round than that one. Which makes this necklace unspeakably exciting to me and anyone else who loves pearls. This necklace will ship with a high-resolution photograph of the necklace in its current original condition. Should the next owner of this treasured necklace choose to have it professionally re-strung, the original string (which will be cut into pieces during the re-stringing) should be retained in a small sealed plastic bag. The string and photograph should then be stored with the necklace and considered part of it.
- In the Style Of
- Place of OriginJapan
- Date of Manufacturecirca 1920
- Condition DetailsExcellent antique condition; superior to most pearl necklaces of this vintage.
- WearWear consistent with age and use.
- DimensionsD 19 in.D 482.6 mm
- Length19 in. (482.6 mm)
- Weight14.35 g
- Seller LocationSouthbury, CT
- Reference NumberLU158918413192
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About the Seller
5 / 5
1stdibs seller since 2019
Typical response time: <1 hour
Located in Southbury, CT
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