Exactly a month ago, we jetted off to Hong Kong to shop the famous pearl show. Jet-lagged but fueled with coffee and laughter we poured over the best pearls the world has to offer for four days straight.
We bought treasures galore and are busy dreaming up new designs!
I'm very excited to work with these natural pearls from the pteria penguin!
They were wild found, and are extremely rare!
I chose each one specifically for a one of a kind collector's piece.
Next stop was Hanoi. It was a joy to have 36 hours in this rich city, so full of life.
Probably the best moment from our short stay in Hanoi was when our office manager ran out of a temple to grab me and show me her favorite part; it was a shaft of light.... that light really seemed to like her too! #kojimagoddess
After a decade away from Ho Chi Minh City, it was so thrilling to see my friends again.
This is Co Bay, she was my neighbor so many years ago. When I showed up at her gate (unannounced after a decade), she wasn't surprised at all, and acted like I was right on time. She is a testament to prayer and clean living. This woman means SO much to me, seeing her again brought me to tears.
Laughing with old friends is the best laughter.
After all the visiting, we jumped head long into preparations for a pearl lecture and trunk show at the Circle of Love in District One, HCMC.
We were prepped for the TV cameras and thirty reporters who showed up for the show!
It was a great time, the shop was gorgeous and the reporters asked really great questions.
Click here for an article in Vietnamese about our visit to Circle of Love.
We spoke mostly about Japan Kasumi pearls. We discussed the history, integrity with which they are farmed and the value of these dear fresh water pearls from Japan.
It was our pleasure to introduce Japan Kasumi pearls to Vietnam !
Thank you Tam Mavroudis and Circle of Love for the opportunity and hospitality!
Directly following the trunk show, we jumped on another flight to Hong Kong, resumed pearl shopping, processed the shipments and then made sure to get in a bit of clothes shopping. :)
Neither these options ended up coming home with us, but the temptation was real.
A day after landing into the peace and quiet light of California, I headed up to Mendocino County for a family reunion.
This pot of gold was the perfect balance to the hectic pace of big Asian cities.
Unfortunately, the peace and calm of our state didn't last long and now we are deep into the worst fire season in California history.
We are hunkered down in the studio by day and reaching out and caring for our friends and family in need by night.
We as a company will be donating to the victims and evacuees of these fires.
The California fires are only one of the MANY disasters humanity is facing right now.
May we all BE and SEE the helpers right now!
We're home for the next couple of months prepping for our Holiday Sale which will start right around Thanksgiving and we have tonnes of pearl designs up our sleeves!
Cheers, Sarah and the KojimaPearl team
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.
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.
In 1991, long before a single oyster was nucleated here, the farmers of Cortez pearls spent a huge amount of time gathering what was left of the native Pteria sterna “rainbow lipped” oysters and fostering a repopulation following their near extinction.
The earliest chronicles of boat captains and Jesuit priests reported leagues upon leagues of pearl beds in the Sea of Cortez. These accounts were recorded after the arrival of the Spaniards following the conquest of Mexico City in 1523. Over-fishing by the Spaniards and the freshly created nation of Mexico led to dramatic losses.
The creation of the Hoover dam greatly effected the Sea of Cortez and led to near extinction of many species. For thousands of years the Colorado River had supplied fresh water to the Gulf of California. Upon the completion of the dam, that fresh water dried up and changed the salinity balance of the entire gulf, killing some species of fish and robbing all others of oxygen rich waters.
Click here for an article by Douglas McLaurin to read more about these fascinating historical events and learn about the great Japanese Conspiracy in the Sea of Cortez!
Pearls oysters/mollusks are the “canaries” of their environs. They cannot survive in polluted water.
Small scale pearl farms such as the Sea of Cortez pearl farm, Kamoka and the fresh water pearls grown in Lake Kasumi ga Ura Japan are actually GREAT for the environment!
In the case of Sea of Cortez pearls the farmers created a generous no-fishing zone around their farm and all species have flourished there, which in turn has brought greater health to the entire bay… (By giving shelter to fish, the populations have increased, which in turn makes the fishermen happier, which in turn makes a brighter community of people)
As I sit here looking out over Bacochibampo Bay I can easily see how bountiful this place must have been hundreds of years ago. The contrast of the quartz studded desert and the clear blue sea is the making of true paradise. Sonoran hospitality, warm smiles everywhere you look, and a calm easy pace of living has made this one of my new favorite places on earth.
Morning light on the fountain.
Native cacti in bloom.
A beautiful stained glass window depicting Cortez in our hotel.
A spur from a Spanish solider, part of Manuel’s collection.