Fuji Voll (my teacher) grew up with an intimate knowledge of the pearl industry.
Here he is at the age of 3 in 1951 at the family pearl farm in Japan.
By the early 1950’s Pacific Pearls had a retail shop in the Ginza district of Tokyo ..
selling mostly Akoya pearl jewelry to tourists and also fresh water pearls from Lake Biwa in Japan.
It was during this golden age of pearls that Rudolf met Mr. Uda… They stayed friends for 40 more years.
Mr. Uda was to fresh water pearls what Mikimoto was to Akoya pearls.. he was the money bags.
(note his henchmen) :)
Dr. Fujita was Mr. Uda’s teacher, he was also directly responsible for populating Lake Kasumi ga Ura with pearly mussels from Lake Biwa in Japan.
Decades later he created the first pearl farmers cooperative in Lake Kasumi ga Ura.
Kasumi ga Ura translates to the “body of water beyond the mist”.
Located some 40 miles from Tokyo, it is not really a lake but a gigantic river delta that flows to the Pacific Ocean.
Pearls are farmed in the river tributaries
Pictured here in the Spring. It is teeming with life.
Today Japan Kasumi pearls are produced using a hybrid mussel.. a cross between the
Japanese Hyriopsis shlegelii
Chinese Hyriopsis Cumingii
The nucleation method used today is based on Mr. Uda’s technique from the 1920’s!!
Using an ice pick the technician picks up the thru- drilled bead and a small piece of mantel tissue.
After the bead is insterted into the body of the animal, the mantel tissue is slightly sucked up into the hole of the bead, ensuring a higher percentage of retention.
This is an x-ray of a strand of Japan Kasumi pearls ,
it was made by our family dentist..
You can see the crossing lines of drilled nucleus and drilled pearl.
By the 1980’s Lake Biwa was not producing pearls, the water level was much too low and pollution had taken it’s toll.
Lake Kasumi has also suffered great loss due to pollution, although it has never completely ceased to grown pearls.
At it’s height there were 30 pearl farms, today there are only 3!!!
After the fall of Lake Biwa and the near disasters at Lake Kasumi many Japanese technicians looked to China for work..
many of them were misled with lofty promises.
In the end the seeding techniques that they brought with them gave rise to the pearls we see coming out of China today.
The farmers currently in production in Lake Kasumi today did a HUGE amount of work with the local government to help clean up the lake.
Working to ensure it’s health for generations to come.
Having grown up with Mr. Uda, Fuji met Yanasesan in the early 1980’s.
Fuji was his first customer when he started producing bead nucleated pearls in Lake Kasumi.
(Yanasesan had , for two decades prior been producing tissue nucleated pearls in Lake Kasumi which were bought by OPEC countries and most likely marketed as natural pearls)
I have been accompanying Fuji on buying trips to Lake Kasumi ga Ura since 1996.
I’ve seen them through great years of success and times of deep sorrow.
(in 2003 there was a horrible blight, and in 2011 a devastating earthquake .. both of these events compromised pearl production in big numbers)
We visit the pearl farm once or twice a year and personally choose each and every pearl we bring to market.
Like almost any harvest, most of the pearls are baroque.. With Japan Kasumi, it is the baroque pearls that have the characteristic dreamy color play and dramatic metallic luster.
Round Japan Kasumi pearls are quite precious and often command much more formal attention worldwide.
There are absolutely NO treatments done to Japan Kasumi pearls.
After harvest they are rubbed with salt and washed with fresh water.
Japan Kasumi pearls are NEVER dyed black, silver or any other color.
Why would you buy Japan Kasumi pearls, especially with China producing similar pearls for often a fraction of the price.
Provenance and the story of the three remaining farmers at Lake Kasumi ga Ura is what sells these pearls.
Like Sea of Cortez pearls and Kamoka pearls.. these pearls are special and they are rare.
Often times the challenges far outweigh the benefits of farming and yet these pearl farmers persevere.
Every year I field dozens of emails from people asking if their pearls are truly from Lake Kasumi ga Ura.
I have written numerous blog posts about the subject.
I won’t bore you with all the inane details of these emails.. but in short these were all sales that happened because of a lack of knowledge on both the seller and the customers part.
As we all know with on line shopping, if it seems to good to be true.. it IS!
Japan Kasumi pearls will never be the same price as Chinese fresh water pearls..
there is just too big of adiscrepancy in cost of living and size of production.
If you are buying pearls to get a “good deal” and pay less.
Japan Kasumi pearls are not for you.
They are special and rare and they always will be.
As a side note : Kasumiga is a BRAND NAME.. it should not be confused with provenance.
So let’s say it out loud together.
They are called Japan Kasumi
Japan Kasumi pearls.
NOT ANYTHING ELSE..
Just JAPAN KASUMI PEARLS.
We believe in the magic of Japan Kasumi pearls..
We believe in the power of pearls to be the canaries of the waters they are grown in.
The more money and attention that is paid to pearls, the more likely the farmers are to ensure clean waters for their animals.
Pearls are the ONE and ONLY gem in the entire jewelry industry that is actually GOOD for the environment..
and these last remaining farmers did their part to keep this water as healthy as it can be.
They deserve our respect and attention.
Here is an example of what I get:
Here is my response to one such puzzled and extremely diligent appraiser concerning this strand shown above, and its original sales slip from 2008.
While these Chinese fresh water pearls were quite interesting for their shape and size at the time… they are clearly from China and not from Japan Kasumi at all. I have never seen Japan Kasumi pearls in these shapes, and certainly not an entire strand of them. The price paid is another factor. $1700 would barely cover their cost of production in JAPAN, much less the markup, gold and rubies! The current value of this Chinese fresh water baroque pearl strand today is approximately $500. Chinese pearl producers have flooded the market, diminishing not only the value of their own pearls, but the perceived value of pearls in general.
Meanwhile back on the Japanese pearl farm at Lake Kasumi ga Ura.. the three farmers continue to grow a sustainable amount of pearls and the prices hold relatively steady
You will also kindly take note, that the invoice reads KASUMIGA pearls.. the term “kasumiga” was for many years a trademarked and somewhat “catchy” name. What customers were buying were “branded” pearls.. there was never proof that they were actually from the Japanese lake, because the branded, trademarked name acted as a fail safe. (i.e. it is entirely possible that the pearls being sold as KASUMIGA were in fact Chinese pearls or a gentle mix of the two). This catchy trademarked name stuck with many uninformed pearl buyers and has been used ever since to describe all matter of pearls, mostly Chinese in almost any color or size, nucleated or not.
Carefully drill each pearl using a specialized machine. Ventilation and patience required. https://www.facebook.com/KojimaPearlCompany/
Wash the drilled pearls in fresh clear water, we recommend using Mt. Shasta spring water (but any old mystical mountain water will do).
Part V: Carefully choose each pearl for the strand to create wearable art , showcasing not just each pearl but the fluid glow of a true heirloom.
Part VI: String the pearls on your choice of thread , learn to knot pearls (expect some amount of frustration at the onset), choose a clasp and create a truly one of a kind piece of natural history.
Speaking of history... Did you know that one of our Japan Kasumi pearl necklaces was featured in the Pearls Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC in 2002? It toured around the world with the exhibit for many years after that!
The Tucson show was, as always, exhilarating and exhausting! It is such a treasure to chat with customers who we’ve known for decades and fun to meet the new ones too. Memories of the first five days are a blurr of pearls and invoices. Each night brought a different dinner of pearl traders, rare stone dealers, entrepreneurs, designers, travelers, and very entertaining people. As always, a huge thank you to Jeremy and Hisano for having us to the Pearl-Guide dinner!
Our first batch of Japan Kasumi pearls from the 2016 harvest arrived home with Fuji just before our Tucson show. On the patio overlooking the desert mountains, I put together the first strand. It sold with in the first couple of hours of opening!
Sometimes being in the booth for days knowing the whole town is buzzing with treasure is challenging.. but when friends stop by to share extraordinary pieces.. like this 150 ct. natural wild found horse conch pearl I forget about the outside world.
Thank you Japan.. More please!
Stay tuned as we continue to sort, drill and set these very special pearls.
Here are a couple of photos of what we’ve put together so far from our new stock of Japan Kasumi pearls.
This is the top strand from this years harvest the pearls measure 10-14mm.