This guide is offered to help you in your quest for the ultimate in pearls - the timeless, elegant and sophisticated pearls by Mikimoto. Information includes how to buy Mikimoto pearls and the all important Mikimoto grading system and hallmark - the "M" in a clamshell. Also described is different lengths of pearls from the classic choker to opera length. There are lots of fake pearls our there described as Mikimoto "quality" or "like" so this guide will help you identify and purchase only genuine Mikimoto pearls!
How To Buy Pearls:
Each pearl harvested is as different and individual as a fingerprint, making it essential to follow quality grading standards. There are five physical factors that determine the quality of pearls and that are important to understand when buying pearls:
Luster is the amount of light reflected from the pearl's surface. Nacre quality in cultured pearls will improve the overall luster. Many even layers of nacre are required to create a highly defined spectrum of color. Only the highest quality pearls with the best luster carry the Mikimoto name.
Although tiny marks found on pearls are part of their natural texture and are proof of the genuineness of a cultured pearl, a pearl is considered more valuable when the surface imperfections are minimal.
There is a wide spectrum of colors that can be found in pearls. Basic colors include cream, gray, green, blue and pink. Color is based on preference, but it is always important to find a color that is rich and evenly distributed on the pearl.
Although many shapes are available, perfectly round pearls are the rarest and most valuable.
Generally, the size of the pearl affects the price. Large pearls are more difficult to cultivate because of the large size of the implanted nucleus. There is an increased likelihood that the oyster will reject the nucleus. Pearls are measured in diameter increments of millimeters (mm).
Mikimoto - Grading System
While luster, quality, surface perfection, color, shape and size are standard factors for pearl grading, the Mikimoto grading scale is the only qualified system which accurately and consistently defines these factors by four individual grade categories.
No one factor can solely represent the worth of a pearl, but luster and surface perfection are key factors in grading a pearl. There are four Mikimoto grades, AAA being the highest quality: A, A+, AA and AAA. There are also four sub-grades: A1, A+1, AA1 and AAA1. The “1” represents a slightly more blemished surface.
Only the best (top 5%) of cultured pearls are deemed worthy to carry the Mikimoto name.
Choker: About 16”. The most popular length, suitable for both formal and casual occasions.
Princess: About 18”. Longer version of the choker.
Matinee: About 22”. The usual length for daytime wear.
Opera: About 30-32”. The most common length for formal wear–may consist of two strands.
Rope: About 40” or longer. There are a number of variations, including two strands, three strands, and knots.
Clasp: The Mikimoto clasp is engraved with the Mikimoto trademark, an outline of an Akoya oyster with the letter M inside. Also commonly referred to as the "M" in a clamshell or oystershell. Only Mikimoto uses this specific hallmark and has done so since they were first produced. No other marks have been used so be sure to look for this specific hallmark when purchasing Mikimoto pearl jewelry.
Source: Mikimoto America, brochures and personal interviews conducted with Mikimoto staff.