He first established a team and started experiments in the coastal areas of Ago and Toba. However these crude experiments failed. To his dismay he lost his entire project team in frustration; leaving only his wife Ume by his side. To compound his plight the red tide of 1892 destroyed the entire crop of Oysters in Ago Bay. He was left with only the oysters in Toba Bay.
He theorized that oysters created pearls as a defense against a “foreign” object within the body of the oyster. So Kokichi Mikimoto began to insert various objects in the body in the hope they would create “The Pearl”. After many years of failed experiments finally on July 11, 1893 his wife opened an oyster to find a pearl. Not perfect but none the less a Cultured Pearl.
Mikimoto moved his experimentation to the Island of Tatokujima in Ago Bay. His next setback came as a result of his wife’s sudden death. He threw himself into his work even more determined to cultivate a pearl.
Years passed and once again in January 1905 the red tide destroyed 850,000 oysters in Ago Bay. Distraught he began to open all of them himself. Finally success! He discovered one of the oysters with a pearl so round that it was as perfect as any Natural Pearl that he had ever seen. This became the beginning of the Cultured Pearl industry as we know it today.
Over the years, Mikimoto developed this most significant discovery in the industry of Pearl Jewelry. Though other potential cultivators, Nishikawa and Mise experimented with silver and gold beads when cultivating, Mikimoto experimented with all sorts of different irritants. His irritants included clay, wood and other natural substances. He discovered that the highest success rate came from inserting one round nuclei that was cut from a US mussel shell. Other substances are still being experimented with to this day, although this mussel shell nuclei still produces the greatest success rate and is commonly used today for the production of cultured pearl necklaces of the highest quality.