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  1. #1
    mikehrz
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    Default Are mikimotos worth the price?

    I have never seen high-level mikimotos in person. I have seen some of their lower-end pearls at a local Zales store (i think), and was pretty impressed with the quality, especially compared to other local stuff i've seen. However, the prices they list on their web site seem pretty extreme. simple A+ 6.5-7mm stud earrings are $300!!
    http://www.mikimotoamerica.com/Merch...ategory_Code=E
    are their pearls really worth the mind-numbing prices? or are you paying for the name as much as the pearl?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Mikimoto is a very high-end brand. The pearls are beautiful, especially when you purchase the highest-end line in an actual Mikimoto store. But you are definitely paying a lot for the name as well. But the one thing that Mikimoto has is 100 years of credibility!

  3. #3
    mikehrz
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    how would you compare the akoyas sold by your company to mikimoto's akoyas? be honest now

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    We do have a very good product, and price for quality I have always maintained we have no competion in the United States, especially on the Internet.
    But to compare our pearls to Mikimoto is a difficult task. In comparing our pearls to a Mikimoto line such as Sea Magic, Blue Lagoon, and other brands not available in a Mikimoto store, I feel our product has strong price and quality advantages.
    Comparing a strand in a Mikimoto store, however, like a 7.5mm strand that sells for $20,000 would not be a fair comparison to our $380 strand. If you compare our pieces of equivalent quality, however, the price differential is immense.
    From an email I received earlier, you are in Southern California, correct? Please feel free to call us to make an appointment. We have an appointment only showroom in Santa Monica. We only schedule one appointment per day, so please call before driving out.

  5. #5
    mikehrz
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    actually, i do have an appointment. however, circumstances are changing. namely, the person i was planning to give the pearls to may have recieved something similar already. i may or may not end up making that appointment.

    thank you for your honesty; from what i have seen, your value for dollar factor is extremely good.

  6. #6
    mikehrz
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    over the weekend i was in las vegas and stopped by the mikimoto store which is inside The Venitian hotel. i was able to examine an AA strand and an AAA strand. the AAA strand was particularly impressive, with a near-mirror-like surface. due to the intense artificial light, it was kind of hard to get a good read on the overtones. the AA was also quite good, though of course not as nice as the AAA. the AA had less reflectivity, a few more flaws (i only saw one flawed pearl on the AAA), and the matching was not quite perfect, though no one would notice anything unless they were specifically examining the necklace for flaws the way i was.

    i believe the 18", 7.5 mm AAA strand retailed for about $10,200. the 18", 7.5 mm AA was about $6,200.

    from what i can recall of pearlparadise's stock, their AA+ was pretty close mikimoto's AA. i don't know if they had anything to compete with the mikimoto AAA. still, as i told my friend who was traveling with us, you can get most of the quality at a tiny fraction of mikimoto's price, especially with pearlparadise. now i want to go back to pearlparadise to examine their akoyas again!

    any comments, mr. shepherd?

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Mikimoto 'AAA' Akoya strands are truly amazing. We do carry this quality, it is called 'hanadama' in Japan. We do not typically advertise them, however, because we never have more than just a handful in most sizes. We typically only sell them in the showroom as it really is a strand you have to see in person to truly appreciate.
    I was in Vegas over the weekend as well! Just got back about an hour ago. Great weekend (bachelor party).

  8. #8
    mikehrz
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    i asked the sales lady if mikimoto's farms were still in japan, or if they had moved some to china. not sure if i worded the question correctly or not, but she said "tradition is tradition" and that their farms were still in japan. i suppose this is possible, but with the nature of the pearl market these days, i wouldn't be surprised if some of those "japanese" mikimotos were grown in chinese oysters.

    the sales lady claimed that an AAA strand such as the one i saw takes up to 15 years to complete, since each harvest only yields one or two pearls that will match the rest of the strand. the strand was extremely well-matched, so this is at least plausible.

    i thought it was interesting that the sales lady put on cotton gloves to handle the AAA strand and wiped it down after we were done looking at it. i got the feeling this was as much for show as for practical reasons. if the AAA strands are that rare, i suppose it would be worth the effort to try to keep them pollutant-free.

    she claimed that mikimoto is the only company with a grading system. according to her, other companies (she mentioned tiffany) refer to their pearls as "mikimoto quality" because mikimoto has a grading system and the other companies don't. a bit of corporate arrogance here, perhaps? (she also didn't mention that mikimoto has lower-quality lines of jewelry than what is sold at the official mikimoto store. when other companies call their pearls "mikimoto quality," which pearls are they supposed to be referring to?)

    the sales lady was very friendly, and i enjoyed my visit to the store. it's always fun to look at beautiful pearls, even if they are insanely unaffordable for the average person, or even the above-average person.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    They do have their farm in Japan. The Japanese companies that are buying pearls in China are typically factories that are supplimenting their Japanese pearls with Chinese Akoya. A lot of these companies also own interest in factories in China. I have visited one in Behai. All the equipment used (bleaching, polishing, dyeing) was top-notch Japanese.

    You are absolutely right about the 'Mikimoto' pearl comparison. You see this so often on Websites and especially on eBay. But they do produce several qualities. Their AAA is their best, and I agree with you, those pearls are amazing.

    Regarding the 15 years to create one strand, this is simply hyperbole by the sales agent. They may have been taught to say that, in the same way 'pearl in an oyster' sellers in Hawaii are taught to say the pearl has grown 'inside' this oyster for 4 years, when in all actuallity they have inserted a 9-12 month cultured pearl into the oyster.

    Hanadama pearls are available after every harvest. When needed I have always been able to source them - but they are expensive - typically double that of our highest quality, or around $1000 per strand for 7.5mm, and $1500 per strand for 8mm. The Hanadama is considered the top 1-2% of the harvest - more than enough to make quite a few strands.

  10. #10
    mikehrz
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    i saw some of those "pearl in the oyster" sellers in one of the casino shops. i was dubious, to say the least, particularly since i saw your documentary and i knew that extracting the pearl from the oyster is a fairly messy process.

    how long would you say it takes for such a strand? could you have several perfectly matched strands from a single harvest?

  11. #11
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    You could certainly have several strands of such from a single harvest. But it is important to remember that the pearl farmers are not the ones matching the strands. This is done by the factory where the pearls are bleached, polished, and drilled. Factories do not work a single harvest, they buy from as many pearl farmers as possible mixing the pearls. This is why there are so many Chinese Akoya pearls mixed with the Japanese in the strands coming out of Japan. So if a factory produces 100 hanadama strands in all sizes it is safe to say they come from a lot of different farms.

  12. #12
    First-graft Pearl Senior Member
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    Mr Shepherd, if a pearl is AAA+ is this synonymous with Hanadama? From the writing you equate it with the Mikimoto AAA+. Given you buys kilos of pearls who at Pearl Paradise picks the pearls for your necklaces? Also why is it that a pair of earrings can be costly and many times more costly than a equal ranked necklace.? I realize this blog is dated 2005 but now 11 years later the neophyte asks the questions.
    Then I go to the other pearl, fandana (sp). What is that difference?

  13. #13
    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    bluidragon,

    Until Jeremy Shepherd comes along to reply to your other questions I can help a little.

    1. About the price of earrings vs. strands. Earrings are actually not more expensive than strands of the same size and quality.

    Here is an example-- the following hanadama 7.5-8.0mm strand is priced at $2140 for the 16 inch length, while the same size hanadama studs are priced at just $322.
    strand: https://www.pearlparadise.com/collec...pearl-necklace
    stud earrings: https://www.pearlparadise.com/collec...-stud-earrings

    2. I think you are referring to Freshadama?
    "Freshadama" is Pearl Paradise's trademarked name for their highest grade of freshwater pearls. These are earring grade pearls that are drilled and strung as strands.
    "Hanadama" is not any vendor's trademarked name; it refers solely to akoya (saltwater) pearls that have been certified by the Pearl Science Lab in Japan to have a particular grade of excellence when it comes to luster, nacre thickness, surface quality etc.

    3. There is no internationally recognized grading system for pearls, unlike diamonds. Although most use the A-AAA system, you will see some vendors who use a A-AAAA system. Also, the meaning of each grade is determined by each vendor. (I saw some freshwater pearls at a bead shop yesterday that were decidedly mediocre in luster, and was told they were AAA. Not! )
    No pearls can be called Hanadama unless they have the certificate from the Pearl Science Lab.

    Some sellers have excellent pearls that may be of hanadama quality but they have not sent the pearls to the lab in Japan for certification. I assume Mikimotos' very best stands are of hanadama quality even if they do not have the certificate.

    But this is not necessarily true of other sellers. It is important to read each seller's own description of what their grades mean. And even then, some sellers may just buy better pearls than other sellers do, because their standards are higher, and one seller's AAA may therefore be better than another's AAA.

    I'm going our on a limb here but I would say that one hanadama may be better than another hanadama. How can this be? A strand will be certified as hanadama if it meets certain minimum requirements. But some strands may exceed those minimum requirements.
    Last edited by Pearl Dreams; 08-16-2016 at 03:15 AM. Reason: typo

  14. #14
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert BlackPearlDudeDC's Avatar
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    I call this "A nail on the head" if ever I saw one lol

    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl Dreams View Post
    I'm going our on a limb here but I would say that one hanadama may be better than another hanadama. How can this be? A strand will be certified as hanadama if it meets certain minimum requirements. But some strands may exceed those minimum requirements.

  15. #15
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Purranha's Avatar
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    Pearl Dreams - such thorough and thoughtful explanation as always - thank you so much!