The story of Akoya pearl cultivation is a fascinating one, the result of the hard work and creativity of several important individuals. But the story of Akoya pearls is especially associated with the life of one man: Kokichi Mikimoto.
In the late 1800's, Kokichi Mikimoto, a son of humble beginnings, began to experiment with pearl cultivation. Convinced he could farm pearls, Mikimoto worked for years -- usually unsuccessfully -- trying to coax pearls from oysters. Then, in 1905, after 12 years of painstaking work and trial-and-error, he successfully produced his first totally round pearl.
What had once been a gem reserved for the upper class and nobility, would now be available for all to own and cherish.
In the 1920's, when Japanese cultured pearls were first introduced into the jewelry market, they confused pearl buyers, and raised much debate as to whether or not they were "real" pearls. But soon the world realized that cultured pearls were as real as natural ones, and that nature had simply been encouraged by human ingenuity.
What Kokichi Mikimoto had helped create was an industry, one so closely associated with Japan today.
The sea around the southern half of Japan is the largest habitat in the world for Akoya oysters.
Here, over the past hundred years, Japanese pearl growers have refined the techniques of pearl cultivation to a high art -- to a point where some of the world's loveliest pearls are grown, in a country where attention to detail combines so well with the love of beauty.
Today, some two thousand independent growers harvest pearls in the waters of Japan -- large and small cultivators alike, employing the same basic techniques to grow these lustrous gems to perfection.
In Module One of this course you learned how cultured pearls are generally cultivated, harvested and processed for market. Now let's see what points of interest apply in these areas to the Akoya pearl specifically. We'll do the same with South Sea and Tahitian pearls as well.