Kokichi Mikimoto is sometimes said to have almost single-handedly invented the modern cultured pearl industry. Although this is not strictly correct, Mikimoto did play the major role in both developing modern techniques for culturing pearls and convincing the general public to accept those pearls as worthwhile and valuable.
Mikimoto was born in Toba City, Japan, in 1858, the eldest son in a family which ran a noodle restaurant. He began raising oysters in 1888 and by the late 1890s he had been awarded a patent on a process for culturing mabes (hemispherical pearls).
Over the next 20 years he continued his research into culturing pearls, culminating with his acquisition of a patent in the early 1900s for culturing spherical pearls.Thereafter Mikimoto was a tireless advocate of the new culturing techniques and their resulting gems.
His efforts opened new markets worldwide for cultured pearls and essentially created the pearl industry that exists today. For his efforts Mikimoto received numerous honours and awards from his native Japan. He died in 1954 at the age of 96.