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  1. #1
    Young Spat
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    Default The Making of Mikimoto Pearls?

    I recently had the opportunity to compare 2 Mikimoto necklaces to several AAA and AA+ akoya necklaces. This is the first time I have had such a chance and I was amazed. The difference is astounding. The question is how? The difference was so remarkable that the Mikimoto's would have to represent the top 0.01% of all pearls produced, if AAA represents the top 1%.

    Does anyone have any clues about the processing of pearls by Mikimoto?

    Wayne
    Last edited by wayne; 08-24-2007 at 01:56 AM. Reason: grammar

  2. #2
    Valeria101
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayne

    The difference was so remarkable that the Mikimoto's would have to represent the top 0.01% of all pearls produced, if AAA represents the top 1%.

    Big 'IF'. Make that HUGE !

    Mikimoto pearls are not all of one grade either. And now everything is labeled AAA...AA everywhere, with no objective, common standard. So... it is a tad hard to imagine what you were comparing to what. Clearly, there are very nice and very bad pearls out there with striking difference between them. Who knows... maybe the good one you looked at would also pale by comparison with yet something else. You never know.

    Just a thought.

  3. #3
    pattye
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    So, Wayne, what exactly was it that you observed?

    Pattye
    so many pearls, so little time

  4. #4
    GemGeek
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    They have a very good point about comparison strands being anybody's guess. Trust your own judgement by learning more about Akoya cultured pearls and take the time to check out freshwater cultured pearls while you're at it. There are a lot of Akoya strands out there that approach or equal top Mikimoto quality. (Search Hanadama)

    Using the search feature of this website will bring up a lot of reputable online pearl dealers. They have excellent photos if you want to see what else is being offered. If you want to see lesser quality, or see what we mean by AAAA being meaningless, just do an eBay search.

    I can't speak specifically to Mikimoto treatment. The usual treatment: Almost all Japanese Akoyas are bleached -- even the pearls that will be dyed can be bleached. They are tumble polished and can also be buffed with or without polishing compounds. This can remove some of the nacre, which is already fairly thin. Most Akoyas are "pinked" -- given a bath in dye. This enhances color and may contribute to a rosy overtone if the pearl color is already on the pink side.

    At this point, only the producers know what kind of treatments, if any, are added. Mikimotos look that way for a reason. It could be something special in the tumbling and buffing, or it could be some kind of secret treatment to enhance the lustre.

    Japanese Akoya pearl nacre is fairly thin and will wear off eventually with daily wear. An alternative would be to get Chinese Akoyas, which tend to have a much heavier coating of nacre. Or, get the finest freshwater pearls, which are entirely nacre, not just nacre coating over a bead. One thing is certain -- Mikimoto pearls are very good pearls. But they are costly and there are a lot of fine alternatives.

    You were only asking about what makes Mikimoto different, but somehow I find myself up on my soapbox as usual. I am a pearl cheerleader.

    The journey to find the ultimate pearl necklace can be the best trip of your life. Warning -- pearls can be addiciting!

    Good Luck,
    Blaire

  5. #5
    Valeria101
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    Quote Originally Posted by GemGeek

    Japanese Akoya pearl nacre is fairly thin and will wear off eventually with daily wear. An alternative would be to get Chinese Akoyas, which tend to have a much heavier coating of nacre. Or...


    How can you tell where a certain Akoya strand comes from?

    and / or

    How can you tell nacre thickness from looking at them?

    It sounds like either ID should be feasible off hand in order to take your advice. I must be missing some point here ...

  6. #6
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    An ID would not be feasible unless purchased on the ground at the source. The best idea would be to simply select the thickest nacre.

    As far as I know Mikimoto processing is not different. But their top grade is the best in the best in the world. They create this grade, which is Hanadama, by selecting the best pearls.

    Although Mikimoto has a farm in Japan they do not really farm pearls. It is more of a tourist stop. They buy akoya pearls from farms in Japan and Korea, from what I have heard.

    They also buy top grade South Sea at auction. They get the top grade because they are willing to spend more than wholesale value because they charge a fortune for everything they sell.

    When you have the ability to sell a strand of pearls for $25,000 that hardly any other sellers sell for more than $1,5000, you have a lot of control over your product.

  7. #7
    GemGeek
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    Quote Originally Posted by Valeria101
    How can you tell where a certain Akoya strand comes from?

    and / or

    How can you tell nacre thickness from looking at them?

    It sounds like either ID should be feasible off hand in order to take your advice. I must be missing some point here ...
    You're right! You can't be 100% sure of where they come from even with special testing, or how thick the nacre is without x-raying or being able to observe the thickness at the drill hole.

    And it might be only a matter of time before Chinese Akoya producers fine-tune their techniques to get the minimum attractive nacre coating in the fastest possible time. So, it's probably a moot point.

    In Tahiti, we observed the pearl nacre x-ray process. Very impressive! I took photos of Jeremy observing the process with his camera, so maybe he'll post them

    Cheers,
    Blaire

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GemGeek View Post
    Japanese Akoya pearl nacre is fairly thin and will wear off eventually with daily wear.
    Is that true? I didn't know that ... is there a secret to making Akoyas last longer? I'd be upset if I spent money on a strand of pearls that didn't last a lifetime...

    I'm new to this forum -- been lurking a bit -- it's very educational!

  9. #9
    Young Spat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Valeria101
    Big 'IF'. Make that HUGE !

    Mikimoto pearls are not all of one grade either. And now everything is labeled AAA...AA everywhere, with no objective, common standard. So... it is a tad hard to imagine what you were comparing to what. Clearly, there are very nice and very bad pearls out there with striking difference between them. Who knows... maybe the good one you looked at would also pale by comparison with yet something else. You never know.

    Just a thought.
    It is possible that you are correct. However, I own three strands of Akoya 7.5-8.0mm pearls that I use as a standard reference. Using the defiiniition of AAA, AA+, and AA published herein, they meet the definitions.

    The Mikimoto's that I saw were clearly 2 orders of magnitude better than my own AAA standard.

    Anyway, there is little purpose about disputes in personal standards. As a scientist, I am interested in the process that pearls are subjected to in order to be classed as any grade of Mikimoto.

    Last edited by wayne; 08-24-2007 at 07:24 PM.

  10. #10
    GemGeek
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    I didn't mean to offend you. You didn't mention having seen other pearls, so I assumed you were new to pearls.

    Reference strands -- that certainly sounds like you have a serious interest. I like that

    Have you seen Hanadama pearls in person? I understand that they are on a par with the finest Mikimoto pearls.

    Welcome to the forum, by the way!

    Cheers,
    Blaire

  11. #11
    Young Spat
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    Quote Originally Posted by GemGeek
    Have you seen Hanadama pearls in person? I understand that they are on a par with the finest Mikimoto pearls.

    Welcome to the forum, by the way!

    Cheers,
    Blaire
    Thank you. No offense taken.

    For many years my passion has been gems of all types. However, I have been converted to pearls.

    I have never seen a strand of Hanadama pearls, only pictures, but if PP's website is any indication they must be truly spectacular.

    I examine pearls in much the same way one examines diamonds and other gems. The best light is a bright sunny day. If this is not possible a bright point source with references is a good substitute. They should also be examined in indirect (northern) light. With sunlight this is easily done, in artifical light it is more difficult. The easiest way is to fold a business card in thirds, lay it on the table so that the three parts of the card form a floor, backwall, and roof. Place the pearls on the floor with a reference and turn so that no direct light hits the pearls.

    This is a method adapted from the diamond trade and I find it very effective in the comparasion of pearls to a know reference.


    Wayne

  12. #12
    GemGeek
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    Wayne thanks for the great idea about the using the folded white card. I have a few around.

    It's interesting that you have been converted to pearls. On gemologyonline.com they don't like to talk pearls. I was a little startled at first.

    Fortunately, you couldn't find a friendlier place to discuss pearls than right here!

  13. #13
    First-graft Pearl Senior Guide Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayne View Post
    The Mikimoto's that I saw were clearly 2 orders of magnitude better than my own AAA standard. . .
    Anyway, there is little purpose about disputes in personal standards.
    "...clearly 2 orders of magnitude better..." -- one hundred times better? -- Now, you're talking!

    As in, "This goes to eleven.", from _This is Spinal Tap_. There is no limit to the praising o' pearls!

    CarolK

  14. #14
    mikehrz
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayne View Post
    It is possible that you are correct. However, I own three strands of Akoya 7.5-8.0mm pearls that I use as a standard reference. Using the defiiniition of AAA, AA+, and AA published herein, they meet the definitions.
    Herein where, exactly? Here on PG? I don't think PG has published any definition of what AAA etc. should stand for.

  15. #15
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    Hi Wayne,
    Welcome.

    Where did you see the Mikimoto pearls you describe? They do not sell the finest in most stores, not even counting the lessor grades they sell under different brand names- like Blue Lagoon.

    You weren't allowed to take pictures? How much did the strands you saw cost? What size are they? What was the source for the AAA and AA pearls you compared them to? Did you by chance use a Hanadama strand for comparison?

    I see you are very impressed, but to impress us, you need details and photos.
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.