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Are Mikimoto Pearls Actually Worth The Money?

As professionals in the pearl space for more than 20 years, we have often been asked this question by friends and customers alike, looking for an honest answer.

We hate to say it, but the answer is … complicated!

The short answer is: Yes.

IF money is no object and you want the prestige of owning the brand name.

Will you receive some amazingly beautiful pearls? Absolutely! For over a hundred years, Mikimoto’s has earned a stellar reputation for selling some of the most beautiful pearls on the planet.

Mikimoto Pearl Necklace Close Up

Ooohhhh and ahhhhhh! Mikimoto has been known for some incredibly gorgeous pearls for over a century, for good reason! Photo credit: Mikimoto Pearl Company

The long answer is more complex, and opting for this luxury brand may not always end up being the best VALUE for your budget ... especially if you’re not in the market for the high ticket prices brand names like Mikimoto’s command.

The truth is, online specialty boutiques like Pearls of Joy prove that there are plenty of other options out there for savvy pearl jewelry shoppers. We've been selling luxury quality jewelry in all major pearl types — just as lustrous and beautiful as Mikimoto’s — without the hefty luxury price tag for years!

The secret to our success is that we purchase our pearls direct from the same wholesale sources that Mikimoto does — directly from the pearl farms themselves — and by attending pearl auctions each year, we're able to save our clients up to thousands of dollars per purchase!

This article aims to get down to brass tacks, so you can make up your own mind about whether owning Mikimoto pearls is worth it, or whether you'd prefer to take the plunge and buy high quality pearl necklaces from a trusted vendor that can save you some serious cash.

The History of Mikimoto Pearls

Portrait of Kokichi Mikimoto

The “Father of Cultured Pearls” Kokichi Mikimoto

The Mikimoto Pearl Company was founded in 1899 by the “Father of Cultured Pearls,” Kokichi Mikimoto, three years after his initial success at culturing his first Akoya pearls in Japan.

Mr. Mikimoto was a genius at promoting his cultured Akoya pearls. He spent decades touring the world, exhibiting the new gems by incorporating them into fashionable jewelry designs and extraordinary sculptures. He displayed his creations at various World's Fairs as well as numerous functions attended by dignitaries and heads of state.

Mikimoto’s biggest impact on the popular consciousness came after World War II. American servicemen stationed overseas in Japan began purchasing his classic single strand cultured Akoya pearl necklaces and bringing them back home to their wives and girlfriends as gifts. 

Vintage Mikimoto Pearl Necklace Advertisement Featuring Grace Kelly

The non-graduated, single strand Akoya pearl choker necklace became the “standard” pearl necklace worn by women throughout the United States and Europe for decades due to Mikimoto’s name recognition cemented after World War II.

The lustrous pearls rapidly became both a status symbol and staple of women’s jewelry boxes across America and the U.K., forever cementing the idea of a “Mikimoto Pearl Necklace” as THE strand of pearls every woman dreamt of receiving.

It should be noted that Mikimoto Pearl Company quietly stopped cultivating their own pearls sometime during the 1970s.

They opted instead to expand their offerings by partnering with pearl farmers around the world and purchasing from the annual auctions —the same auctions Pearls of Joy buys from.

Each year Mikimoto's pearl specialists purchase the top 5% of any harvest, and the company remains renowned for its high quality, luxury Akoya pearls. Even today the company still spends millions of dollars every year partnering with scientific academies and farming operations to improve Japanese Akoya pearl farming techniques.

Considering its history, it is no surprise that Mikimoto has built a strong brand name that commands a premium price — they used to be the only choice for quality pearls — but there is much more competition in the modern pearl market. Today, Mikimoto buys cultured pearls from the same annual auctions as brands like Pearls of Joy, so shoppers aren't stuck with just one choice for top-quality pearls.

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The Mikimoto Reputation

Mikimoto High Jewellery Collection Cloud Necklace

This STUNNING Akoya pearl, Diamond and Opal Necklace is accented with our favorite gemstone in the world, rare Pariaba Tourmaline which resembles the color of a crystalline pool on a summer's day. Part of the "Cloud" Collection from Mikimoto High Jewellery.

Mr. Mikimoto understood the cultural significance of couture, luxury jewelry design. In addition to creating classic items like single and double-strand pearl necklaces and pearl stud earrings, he invested heavily in hiring the finest artisans and jewelers to craft incredibly intricate, beautiful pearl jewelry designs to woo both the press and potential luxury clientele.

The focus on ultra-expensive showpieces continues to this day, and each year the Mikimoto Pearl Company releases a new High Jewelry Collection with its own unique theme. Each annual release is highly anticipated by the pearl industry for its dazzling beauty and meticulous craftsmanship … truly they are all jaw-droppingly beautiful.

The price points are stunning too, regularly fetching anywhere from $50,000 to $300,000 price tags.


This couture Akoya pearl choker is from Mikimoto's "Wild and Wonderful" High Jewelry Collection. Featuring AAA quality saltwater cultured Akoya peawrls, a free-form baroque Tahitian pearl, diamonds and rare color-changing Brazilian Alexandrite gemstones, this design evokes the striking stripes of the zebra and is an homage to the wilderness of Africa. Photo courtesy Mikimoto Pearl Co.

These pieces almost always incorporate Akoya pearls as the main star of the show (we would expect nothing less!) However White and Golden South Sea pearls and colorful Black Tahitians — along with plenty of diamonds and other precious gemstones — are also added to increase the drama and flair of each design.

“Jeux de Rubans” Double Strand Akoya Pearl Necklace with Diamond Ribbon and Tanzanite Drops

A favorite from the “Jeux de Rubans” High Jewelry Collection released in Winter 2021 features lustrous Akoya and White South Sea pearls accented with Pink and Blue Sapphires, Diamonds and Tanzanite precious gemstones. Photo courtesy of Mikimoto Pearl Company.

It’s likely you’re not out there shopping for this year’s >ultimate< couture “Jeux de Rubans” Double-Strand Pearl, Diamond and Tanzanite Briolette necklace for $208,000.00

But ...

We think this is important to keep in mind when shopping for “bread and butter” items like single-strand white pearl necklaces, classic stud or pearl dangle earrings, or even fashionable pearl pendants.


Basically, this boils down to a simple value proposition.


Do you want to spend $10,000 on a single strand of Akoya pearls? Or was the $500 to $3K range more in line with your thinking?

Which brings us to …

Mikimoto Pearls: The Luxury Brand vs. Pearl Specialty Dealers

When you stop to think about it, it makes sense that the Mikimoto Pearl Company is so expensive. It costs a lot to maintain multiple luxury retail locations around the world, and to produce the yearly couture pearl collections that maintain the brand's mystique.

But that's where the crux of the issue comes into focus: instead of simply paying for beautiful pearl jewelry, a large portion of the luxury price tag you just paid is going to cover all those extras — not the pearls.

Fortunately, our founder Kevin Canning recognized this was an issue, and decided it was time for a change.

The internet revolutionized the way we do business by making it easier than ever to reach jewelry lovers from all walks of life and speak directly to them. Without the luxury brand campaigns, the store fronts, the overhead ... without all those extras.

Today it's possible for everyone to own incredibly beautiful, high-quality pearl jewelry without paying the 300% markups that a luxury brand attaches to their pearls.

Kevin Canning buying pearls at overseas auctions

Each year, Kevin Canning travels to jewelry shows and pearl auctions held around the world to personally pick out pearls for Pearls of Joy. In this photo, he is sorting through rare and colorful Freshwater Edison pearls from China.

Owner and CEO of Pearls of Joy, Kevin Canning, travels each year to source pearls directly from pearl farms and overseas pearl auctions, buying gems from many of the same sources that Mikimoto’s does. He skips the middlemen — and their markups — and as a result, is able to bring the beauty and luxury of cultured pearl jewelry to everyone at prices you can afford.

Additionally, Pearls of Joy operates exclusively online. That means we bypass the costs of opulent showrooms, staffing, insurance and expensive advertising campaigns that brand names like Mikimoto’s carry.

In this manner, Pearls of Joy is able to offer fine cultured pearl jewelry on par with luxury brand names like Mikimoto’s. Customers can choose from a wide variety of stunning designs ranging from classic pearl necklaces and earrings to more elaborate diamond-accented pearl pendants and rings, at wholesale-to-the-public prices.

Examining a superb Tahitian pearl ... 

That's how we are able to consistently offer luxury quality pearl jewelry comparable to Mikimoto's for less than half the price.

For example, on a head-to-head comparison we're able to sell a classic Akoya pearl necklace comparable to Mikimoto's at substantially less cost to you. We'll get into the why and how that happens by doing head-to-head comparisons on a few items so you can see for yourself how amazingly our pearls match up (while saving you thousands!)

While we're going through these match-ups, you'll notice that the pearl grades listed on the pearls are different. That's because Mikimoto's uses their own proprietary grading system, while Pearls of Joy and other US dealers use the widely known A-AAA Grading Scale commonly used in the U.S.

Digging Deeper On Pearl Grading ...

On measures like luster, surface quality, roundness and nacre (also called mother-of-pearl) thickness, Mikimoto's A+ grade is just about equivalent to our AAA grade. At Pearls of Joy, we use the industry standard A-AAA grading scale within the top 10% of Akoya pearls, while Mikimoto uses their own unique grading system, A, A+, AA and AAA for pearls purchased within the top 5% of each yearly harvest.

So for most intents and purposes, that means that Mikimoto's A+ quality Akoya pearls will be roughly equivalent to our AAA grade — but at Pearls of Joy, those pearls are priced at a huge discount.

This un-retouched photo of an A+ Mikimoto pearl necklace displays perfectly round pearls, very high luster and 95-99% blemish-free surfaces. Close-up inspection reveals that these pearls are not "blemish-free", with lightly spotted surfaces and some slight mottling visible. These pearls correlate to the AAA grade Akoya pearls found on Pearls of Joy. Click the image to blow up the pearls to examine surfaces in detail.

Mikimoto’s very best pearl grade for Akoya pearls is “AAA,” and their website only offers this upgrade for smaller items like Akoya pearl earrings. Full strands in the “AAA” Mikimoto quality are extremely limited in supply.

In fact, there may be only one or two necklaces in this quality tier kept in the United States at any given time at flagship locations like New York or Beverly Hills. The pearls must be specifically requested and shipped to the location for in-person appointments. So getting your hands on one of these incredibly top-tier pearl necklaces is not only time-consuming, but also very expensive!

Mikimoto Pearls vs Pearls of Joy: A Head-to-Head Comparison

We can compare Mikimoto’s A+ Quality Japanese Akoya Pearl Necklace (this is the highest quality they regularly offer on their website) to our AAA Quality Akoya pearl necklace from Pearls of Joy, and the savings on pearls that are practically equivalent in quality and size is astonishing.

Mikimoto pearl necklace pricing

This 7.0-7.5mm, 16-inch Akoya pearl necklace graded “A+” in quality retails at Mikimoto Pearl Company for $6,400.00 (plus tax).

Now, that’s a steep price.

It effectively puts the most popular size pearl necklace nearly out of reach for many pearl lovers.

As you can see, when you compare our AAA Quality Akoya pearl necklace in the 7.0-7.5mm size range with the Mikimoto A+ quality necklace in the same size, ours costs between $895 - $1,120.00 — much more affordable for the average jewelry shopper.


The savings between the two brands amounts to over $5,000.00! 


This is a significant price difference for pearl shoppers, and one that’s definitely worth keeping in mind when deciding whether or not Mikimoto pearls are worth it to you.

Mikimoto’s BEST Quality vs. Pearls of Joy's “Top Range” Hanadama Akoya Pearl Earrings

While getting our hands on a AAA Quality Mikimoto pearl necklace for comparison purposes is nearly impossible, thankfully we can still outline some pricing differences between Mikimoto’s AAA quality Akoya earrings and the savings you'll experience when you purchase pearls at Pearls of Joy.

Hanadama Akoya Pearl Earrings price comparison

Take our “Top Range” Certified Hanadama Akoya pearl earrings measuring 7.0-7.5mm for instance. These are the finest Japanese Akoya pearls on offer, and they are affordably priced between $327 and $410.00, depending on whether we are holding a holiday sale.

The “AAA” quality equivalent pearl earrings at Mikimoto’s website cost a whopping $1,950.00!

Mikimoto Akoya pearl earrings AAA Quality

Our Hanadama Akoya pearls are selected from the top 3% of each pearl harvest, and are examined by the Pearl Science Laboratory of Tokyo, Japan. Each strand or matched pair of pearls meets the strictest standards of nacre depth via x-ray, highly reflective luster, rainbow iridescence and clean surface quality. The pearls are all issued their own Hanadama Certification that accompanies the pearls from Tokyo.

To get a better visual sense of how beautiful our Hanadama Akoya pearls are in real life, watch Kevin discuss the “Ferrari of the Pearl World” brought to you by Pearls of Joy:

For brand purists, those who simply MUST have the Mikimoto brand name, then these price differences will not matter at all.

But for jewelry shoppers who are value-conscious, we think you’ll agree that opting for a specialty retailer like Pearls of Joy is an easy choice!

What About Sea Magic and Blue Lagoon Brands?

We sometimes get a few questions about both “Sea Magic” and “Blue Lagoon,” two off-brand pearl jewelry lines that Mikimoto Pearl Company offers.

Both “Sea Magic” and “Blue Lagoon” lines are created using lower-quality Akoya and Freshwater pearls than what are sold in official Mikimoto retail locations. The pearls range in the top 5-10% of each annual pearl harvest, and are meant to be sold in big box jewelry retail chains like Zales, Jared’s and Saks Fifth Ave.

These are still nice quality pearls, equivalent to our AAA Quality Akoya and Freshwater pearl collections. However, they are still priced at a premium over Pearls of Joy.

What are Sea Magic Pearl Earrings

For pearl shoppers looking to own a piece of the Mikimoto pearl jewelry brand name without spending the luxury price tag, a visit to Zales or Sam’s Club might be an option worth considering!

Keep in mind, however, that unlike Pearls of Joy, these big box retail stores can't offer you the ability to tailor the pearls to your choosing. Options such as selecting alternate clasps or lengthening the necklaces are non-existent, and the selection you’ll be choosing from will be extremely limited.

Still on the Fence? Try Both Brands!

We are HUGE fans of comparing apples to apples when it comes to pearls. For shoppers that still have questions about whether or not spending the money on branded Mikimoto pearls is worth it, or saving potentially thousands on nearly equivalent pearl jewelry from Pearls of Joy, we highlyrecommend buying from both places and comparing them for themselves!

At Pearls of Joy we are confident that you’ll love our pearls. So confident in fact that we offer the longest return and exchange policy online! If for any reason you no longer want our pearls, simply contact one of our friendly pearl experts and arrange for a full money back refund with our 100-Day Return policy, with free return shipping!

Are Mikimoto Pearls Worth It? Our Final Thoughts …

At the end of the day, should you decide to splurge and get those branded Mikimoto pearls, we can definitively say that you won’t be disappointed.

But for everyone else that is not “stuck” on purchasing the brand name, then there ARE other options out there!

We highly recommend taking some time to do your research and find a pearl specialist that you can purchase from with confidence. We guarantee that not only will you find some gorgeous, luxury-quality pearl jewelry that you can treasure for years to come, but it’s also possible to save up to tens of thousands of dollars on your purchase.

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The Perfect Strand of Pearls

Fine Japanese Akoya Pearls

The perfect strand of pearls... Is it possible?

Perfectly round, beautifully matched, with a mirror like luster – Japanese Akoya pearls can’t be matched for quality and high-end appeal. This is the classic pearl necklace.  

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