A Cultured Gem

Kokichi Mikimoto, widely considered the father of cultured pearls, was the first person to produce cultured blister pearls in Japan in 1893. Twelve years later, the first few whole round cultured pearls were harvested in 1905. His vision revolutionized the pearl industry, making pearls (once a rare commodity) widely accessible to the middle class. Cultured pearls are grown by taking a small piece of mantle tissue (the organ that lines a mollusk’s shell) from a donor mollusk and inserting it with a shell bead into a host mollusk's gonad. Cultured pearls can also be grown by placing mantle tissue by itself into a host mollusk's mantle. Over time, the hosts’ mantle tissue secrets nacre, forming either bead cultured pearls or non-bead cultured pearls.

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