Mention pearls and Mikimoto comes to mind. The oldest name and foremost reference in cultured pearls, Mikimoto has a heritage that spans more than 125 years. It was founder Kokichi Mikimoto who revolutionised the jewellery industry when he successfully created the first cultured pearl. Today, the brand has its own pearl farm, Mikimoto Pearl Island, that also houses the world’s first pearl research laboratory. It’s where cutting-edge research on pearl production is done and where its lustrous Akoya pearls are harvested.
Only the top five percent of the pearl harvest meets the brand’s strict quality standards. The same stringent guidelines apply to other pearl types (such as Tahitian, Melo melo and conch) as well as the myriad of gemstones used in Mikimoto’s high jewellery collections.
Unveiled annually during Paris Haute Couture week in July, Mikimoto’s high jewellery collections regularly take inspiration from different cultures around the world. This time, the jeweller looks inward at its homeland, Japan, for its latest high jewellery collection. Christened The Japanese Sense of Beauty, it comprises beguiling jewellery pieces with scintillating designs influenced by the country’s heart-achingly beautiful landscapes that change with the seasons.
The launch of the collection is accompanied by a short film starring Japanese supermodel Ai Tominaga. One of the first Asian models to ever the storm the fashion runways of Paris and Milan, Tominaga is a vision of perfection in her elegant gowns that make perfect backdrops for some of the collection’s most dazzling highlights.
Let’s take a closer look at them:
Inspired by the waterfalls depicted in ukiyo-e landscapes, a genre of Japanese art that flourished between the 17th to 19th century, this statement brooch is inspired by the ephemeral beauty of spring. Verdant pine trees of zoisite, jadeite and emeralds representing rebirth and new beginnings lead to waterfalls of sapphires, diamonds and emeralds inspired by melting snow.
With its play on gradation, this collier is influenced by bokashi, a painting technique involving blurring and shading. It comprises South Sea cultured pearls varying from silvery white to iridescent grey and is held together by a network of mixed cut diamonds.
A bejewelled bib that resembles a delicate lacework, the openwork structure comprises diamond set marquise shape gold structures that intersperse with pear-shaped fancy coloured zoisites, diamonds and rare natural conch to form a dainty mujinagiku (raccoon chrysanthemum) pattern.
Resembling Tudor neck ruffs worn by people of wealth and stature during that time, these breath-taking creations are inspired by the stylised wave pattern, seigaiha. Comprising layered concentric circles that form arches, this pattern originated from China and was introduced to Japan around the 6th century via the Silk Road. Mikimoto’s bejewelled interpretation of the seigaha print comprises strings of variedly sized pearls and diamond chains looped into delicate ropes that fall gracefully at the collar. Tourmalines, hued in the most electrifying shade of blue, enliven the piece while the addition of opals lend a mystical glow to this masterpiece.
The fragile beauty of the buxom chrysanthemum bloom is immortalised in a trio of two oversized brooches and a statement ring. Decorated with different types of pearls encircled with corollas of gemstones surrounded by delicate gem-studded petals, these dynamic designs convey the beauty and vibrant energy of flowers slowly blooming towards the direction of the sun.
The spirit of haute couture is alive in these brooches. Inspired by jūnihitoe, the traditional Japanese twelve-layered ceremonial kimono first worn in the Heian period by noble women and ladies-in-waiting at the Japanese Imperial Court, these brooches accurately capture the pleating and folds created by multiple layers of fabric, as well as the vibrant array of colours and patterns.
The last example features three motifs that are important in Japanese culture: fan; the moon; and the Japanese bush clover. Decorated with precious materials in warm muted tones, it is designed to evoke the fresh, crisp air of autumn nights.