Vintage Mikimoto Plating Material on Silver?


Well-known member
May 21, 2013
I'm a pretty determined jewelry collector via on-line and antique fairs and markets, and over the year I've bought a few bargain priced Mikimoto pieces when I find them.

Most are 1940's (post war occupation forces) to 1970's pieces (bought by tourists on trips to Singapore and Hong Kong), later disposed of by unsympathetic family who don't want grandma's pearls. Most are silver stamped "SIL" or "S" with the Mikimoto "Pearl in a Clamshell" logo.

Often these require minor repairs, when broken clasps or pins on brooches need straightening out or re-attaching.

I use a very good manufacturing jeweler with laser welder and bench trained artisans, and he despairs when I bring these pieces in.

According to him it is very difficult to refinish Mikimoto silver items once repaired, because whatever Mikimoto used to (electro) plate their silver items is difficult to match.

He says it's much harder and thicker than normal rhodium plating, he says almost like a chromium plate.

Does anyone actually know what the final surface plating material was that Mikimoto used 'back in the day' to finish their silver jewelry?

Thanks and best regards
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Palladium wasn't being used in those days. There may indeed be a lot of nickel involved - while the EU has banned nickel (and cadmium and lead) from any skin contact items because of allergy and poison issues some American makers still put a layer of nickel between the base and the top plate material so that layer of nickel used back them might be the problem with the repairing.
The outer layer could be white gold. I can't think of any reason why anyone would want to plate silver with chrome.
It might be worth the effort and cost to get a metallurgist to check out one clasp to see what's going on if you are putting a lot of these clasps in for repair.
The material I referred to as "nickel silver" was very commonly used for jewellery components - And other small decorative items as it had very good characteristics for machining, was strong and reliable as a material, It could be easily plated, and being a white metal it was and still is very versatile.

The "but" in the plating remark is that plating during manufacture is very different to re-plating after repairs. Surface prep is key and it's not straightforward to achieve in a repair, especially with older pieces.

My money is still on the nickel silver base - the repair guys description is completely typical of how it behaves.
Hi Bernadette, you're probably correct. My jeweler has also commented that the "silver" metal the brooches and pins are made of does not perform like normal sterling silver.

He described it as being hard to work, and seemingly having a lower silver content typically found in some ethnic jewelry.

I had a friendly argument with him saying that Mikimoto would not use cheap materials, but on reflection all the silver pieces I've seen only say "SIL" or "S".

They do not claim any specific silver content in their hallmark.

A quick bit of Googling tells me normal sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.

Sounds like Mikimoto vintage silver is a silver/nickel alloy, maybe 90/10, then with a heavy rhodium plating.

The use of Nickel as their alloy for Silver would make sense in necklace clasps and brooches/pins making items strong, hard, and long lasting.

I'll tell my jeweler, but I don't think knowing this will make him any happier about taking in my fiddly minor repairs!
Hi again Bernattte, I Googled "Nickel Silver" to see what silver content typical alloys contained.
Wikipedia tells me Nickel Silver is the name used for an alloy with NO silver content, see:
Is this what you meant by Nickel Silver? I would be very surprised if that's what Mikimoto used.
Or were you referring to something more like a 90% silver / 10% nickel alloy?
Hello kiwipaul - indeed it has no "silver" as such, it's more a white brass or bronze for want of a better term.

I've worked with many strands over the years where the clasp has this kind of a metal "foundation" over which the final plating was done. And it wasn't just the bottom end where it was used, some pieces where quite high quality (both the pearl & the metalwork in the clasp)

I hope you find an answer to this problem <<in which case let us know :) >>

Mikimoto as a Fine Jeweler

Mikimoto as a Fine Jeweler

While I've been asking the question about the composition of Mikimoto silver clasps, brooches etc., I'd like to add that I have a great respect for Mikimoto as a fine jewelry house.

I seriously doubt they would have made clasps marked "S" or "SIL" that were nickel silver with no silver content (as in the white brass in EPNS silver cutlery.
(EPNS = Electro Plated Nickel Silver).

I guess the nature of their silver alloy and plating material remains a bit of a mystery until someone who truly knows gives us the answer.

For anyone who doubts Mikimoto's place in the Fine Jewelers Hall of Fame, check this out:
The V&A Pearl Exhibition starts tomorrow in London.

Look at this gorgeous Mikimoto Art Deco Sash Clip in the exhibition - WOW! (and scroll down in the link below to see more Mikimoto pieces in the Exhibition.

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