Class in Session: Mikimoto Hosts Pearl School



Neither the dreary Manhattan weather nor train delays could
dampen my spirits last Wednesday—after all, it’s not every day you’re invited
to attend Mikimoto Pearl School.

Mikimoto 

Best “School” Ever: Mikimoto on Fifth Avenue
 

Photo courtesy of Mikimoto

It was indeed a treat because I like pearls…a lot. I have them in strands, in
multiple styles of finished jewelry, by the hank (still unstrung), in a
multitude of colors and shapes, and loose and waiting to be drilled for
stringing or set into pendant caps. So my enrollment into Mikimoto’s Pearl
School—a fun and informative morning of pearl education—was like enjoying a hot
fudge sundae without the calories: It was a heavenly experience.

Mikimoto

Akoya pearls and oyster, Pinctada fucata martensii

Photo courtesy of Mikimoto

Present to walk pupils through three different stations—strands, culturing, and
design—were senior VP of retail
Hajime Fukuju, VP of merchandise Joe Kakimoto, Maureen Gribbin Maguire from the press office, and Amy Kim-Araneo, VP of design
and product development.

Mikimoto

Black-lipped pearl, Pinctada margaritifera

Photo courtesy of Mikimoto

Mikimoto

Silver-lipped oyster, Pinctada maxima (golden-lipped oysters bear the same name)

Photo courtesy of Mikimoto

Upstairs in the South Seas pearl loft, Joe and Hajime displayed golden,
Tahitian (black), white, and akoya strands, and even offered styling tips for long strands (see slideshow below, “Five Ways to Wear a Strand of Pearls”). Among the
gems I acquired: Mikimoto divers wear white cotton outfits to ward off
curious sharks (apparently, sharks don’t like the color white—who knew?), and it
can take up to four years to collect enough matched pearls to make a single
strand. When designers lose patience, large single pearls can be placed into
finished jewelry. A case for waiting exists in store in a $1 million white
South Seas necklace, with pearls ranging in size from 17 mm to 18.7 mm.

Mikimoto

The $1 million necklace features white South Seas pearls ranging in size from 17 mm to 18.7 mm.

Photo courtesy of Mikimoto

Mikimoto 

An expert pearl knotter was also in the store. Since I knot pearls, too, I asked her if she ever used a Tri-Cord Pearl Knotter. She smiled politely and shook her head no, though I’m sure she was thinking, “Silly girl. I don’t need that to knot; my hands are my tools.” BTW, she was also knotting on not one but two lengths of silk. Wow. Well, I was there to learn …

In the culturing station, Maureen displayed different sizes of oyster shells to
show the various stages of maturation. At 3 years old, an akoya oyster can be
implanted with a bead to begin the culturing process; pearls are then
harvested up to 2–3 years later. Mikimoto’s akoya pearls range in size from 3 mm
to 10 mm; white and golden South Seas start at 9 mm; and black South Seas
start at 8 mm. Meanwhile, harvest occurs from June to July in Australia (during
its winter months) for South Seas, and in December to January for Japanese-grown akoyas.

Mikimoto

A 3-year-old oyster is ready for nucleation.

In the main showroom, Amy
discussed design inspiration. For example, the unique shapes of baroques often
“tell you what they want to be,” she explained, referring to the irregularly
shaped pearls that often dictate specific looks. In sizes, 10 mm–11 mm are
often the best sellers. And when pearls are drilled, water and air—and a foul odor, eww!—are sometimes secreted.

Mikimoto

Amy Kim-Araneo, VP of design
and product development

Mikimoto

The shape of baroque pearls often dictate the type of finished pieces they become.

Inside the oyster, pearls spin,
touching on different parts of the colored interior lips, giving each pearl a unique hue (see Tahitian necklace for variations). Mikimoto oysters are purposely turned in their beds every couple
of weeks to increase the chances of creating perfectly round pearls, which
typically command higher prices.

Mikimoto

A Tahitian pearl necklace showcases the variety of colors available—even within the same family of oyster—in South Seas pearls, depending on how pearls spin during the culturing process. Piece shown with diamonds in 18k gold is $42,000.

Mikimoto

Earrings in 18k gold feature akoya pearls that are 3.5 mm and 4.5 mm; $4,000.

However, the baroques do pretty well at the counter; according to Amy, “the
more unusual pearls go faster” because each one is one of a kind.

Five Ways to Wear a Strand of Pearls

During Mikimoto’s recently held Pearl School, the brand offered styling tips for owners of one of its 88-inch long strands of 8 mm. akoya pearls.

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