Personal Effects: Mikimoto pearls

BY JERRY SAMPSON

Community columnist

Question: Hi Jerry, I wanted to run this idea I had by you. We just had our first granddaughter a few weeks ago. We are over the moon! I have my mother’s strand of Mikimoto pearls, Daddy got when he was overseas. Both are gone now. But I thought of an idea I read once.

I thought that I would cut this strand apart and give our new grand baby two on every birthday. That way when she’s 18 she’ll have her grandmother’s pearl necklace.

It’s a 24-inch necklace and has the original box and papers. What do you think?

Answer: I think that’s a horrible idea. First, let’s just touch on some Mikimoto history.

In 1898, Kokichi Mikimoto successfully created the world’s first cultured pearls though it was a struggle for he and his wife and partner Ume, for more than 10 years before this occasion. Cultured pearls are created by inserting a small mother of pearl bead into the mantle of an oyster. The oyster sees this as an irritant, and covers it with a substance called nacre, to smooth it and make it feel less sharp to its tissues, thus resulting in perfectly round pearls.

Before this, pearls were created by much the same method, except by Mother Nature and a GRAIN of sand. Taking decades to form a pearl of any size.

This is why pearls were considered the property of royalty and the uber rich. Poor people did not own pearls. Cultured pearls are very real pearls, they are just a sped up version. All parts of the oyster are used on these massive pearl farms, shells and muscle tissues. The tissues are often consumed by the workers at the factory or are sold to local restaurants.

Your gift idea is a poor one as if unfair to ask a child, or busy parents to watch over two small pearls for 18 years. Too many chances to have them lost, including the clasp and the box.

I would keep them in the original box, in a cool safe place. Always keep pearls way from cologne, perfumes and hair sprays. They should be wiped off with a soft rag after wearing. Just keep them for her until she’s 20 or older. Make sure that you have them listed in your will, with your wishes, and their history, to be given to your granddaughter, in the event of your death.

If you have to have her in pearls as a child, a string of nice costume pearls will fit the bill.

Today, it will cost at least $200 – $300 to restring and knot a 24-inch necklace. In the future it will be even more.

You didn’t send me a photo of your pearls, but I think that your pearls are likely 10mm in size. And I don’t know factors like color, overtones, undertones, quality of the clasp and condition. I’m assuming that everything is good.

Mikimoto is still in business and is considered a luxury brand. The replacement value for a basic strand of Mikimoto pearls is about $2,000, again depending on the quality and size. I commend you for wanting your pearls to stay in the family but I would go this route instead. Thanks for a great question.