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Akoya pearl with a natural blue color

In search of "UMI HOTARU"


Among the COLLECTIBLE PEARL that we have carefully selected and introduced, the one that gives off a distinctive charm is the main character of this time, "UMI HOTARU".
What kind of background is this fascinating blue shining material made of? We interviewed Yusuke Chikazawa of Kitamura Pearl Culture Co., Ltd., which produces "UMI HOTARU".


"Mountain Island" Tsushima

Tsushima is located on the northernmost border of Kyushu, about 130km from the mainland and only 50km to South Korea. There is a Kitamura pearl farm that produces "UMI HOTARU".

sCenes Yoshida (below ——)  Please tell us about the Tsushima farm.
Mr. Chikazawa (hereinafter referred to as Chikazawa) Our farms are located in the three areas of Ofunakoshi, Oyama, and Omasu on the island. Omasu is currently dormant, but we produce about 200 pounds of pearls per year (about 750 kg). The volume has decreased compared to the peak period.

—— Is that so. So when have you been cultivated?
Chikazawa Originally, my great-great-grandfather started aquaculture in Mie in 1901, and it was about 20 years later that he started in Tsushima. First, I started at Ofunakoshi, which is in the middle of the island, but it's easy to understand if you look at it on Google Maps. It's the most jagged ria coastal area on the island, and it's a great area for pearl farming.


—— So that's it. The inland sea like the ria coast has calm waves and is suitable for aquaculture. But I think there are other places like the Rias style, but why was Tsushima?
Chikazawa After starting aquaculture in Mie, it seems that he found an environment suitable for aquaculture in Tsushima while conducting various investigations to find a better place.Most of the island in Tsushima is covered with forest, and the islandThere is a rias coast in the center, which was a very good environment for pearl farming. Tsushima is really rich in nature, and good nutrition for the growth of shellfish comes down from the mountains.

"Pearl cultivation is only possible when there is a healthy environment for shellfish to grow."

The rain and snow that falls on the mountains of Tsushima melt the nutrients of the primeval forest and flow into the sea through the clear mountain stream, and the nutrient-rich water grows phytoplankton. The plankton-fed pearl oysters grow vigorously with abundant food and become the basis for the production of beautiful Akoya pearls.
I was convinced that the beauty of Tsushima's Akoya pearls, which have been cultivated for over 100 years, is because the "mountain island" surrounded by the sea still maintains its beautiful environment.

At first glance, aquaculture carried out in the sea seems to have nothing to do with mountains, but in reality it has a deep relationship.



Changed sense of value

The most valuable farmed Akoya pearls are said to be "round, white in color and thick with a strong glowing nacre".
This is the same as it used to be, and farmers all over the country are doing research and working hard to achieve that goal.
Naturally, pearls that deviated from the desired quality were considered low value, and blue baroque pearls were also originally considered low value.

However, I doubted that some of the baroque pearls had beautiful blue pearls that gave off a beautiful blue color, and that they were also considered to be low-value pearls.Mr. Chikazawa, One of the things that differentiated us from other pearls and increased their value is "UMI HOTARU".

—— It's a great idea. By raising the value of things that have been considered low value, we can improve aquaculture operations and lead to the permanent development of the industry. I was surprised to learn that the value of such a beautiful pearl was originally low.
Chikazawa That's right. However, it is not the case that any blue colored pearl can be sold. Most pearls with blue color are only those that have blue in only a part of the pearl, and those that have beautiful blue covering the entire pearl are very rare. It is very rare to find a pearl with blue color all over. Recently, the value of not-so-perfect pearls has been reevaluated as a fashion item, and jewelry using such pearls seems to be increasing, so the value of pearls is becoming more widely recognized.




—— Before I heard the detailed explanation from you, I was cautious about handling natural blue colored Akoya because it is beautiful but I was afraid of the possibility of color change.
Chikazawa I think you are right to think that way. It's true that some pearls change color the moment you drill a hole in them, but not all of them do. However, in the case of large pearls, such as baroque stones, there may be a cavity inside, and if you drill a hole in it, the organic component that made the blue color will be released from the cavity, and the beauty of the stone may be ruined. For pearls smaller than 9mm, such as those sold at sCenes, the color change is relatively small even if you drill a hole. The pearls are stored for another year to make them less susceptible to color change. You can rest assured that our quality control is thorough.

Generally, the natural blue Akoya is a pearl that is said to be prone to color changes.
This is because the pearls immediately after being raised on the beach contain a lot of water, so the organic components inside the pearls are not stable, and if a hole is made, the color may change as the water evaporates.

However, since "UMI HOTARU" is a "Koshimono" that has been cultivated for a longer period than the normal pearl farming period, the nacre is thick and the color is dark, and it is one year after the beach is raised under a firm management system. Since the process of removing water is taken, you can enjoy beautiful blue for a long time without color change.

Only pearls with a mysterious blue color, which seems to reflect the sea of Tsushima, are named "UMI HOTARU" and are certified as one pearl BRAND.

ShellWork3Inserting a pearl nucleus by a craftsman.. The quality of the pearls produced depends on the quality of this work technique.

ShellWork4Clean barnacles and seaweed from shellfish several times a year.. Work that is indispensable for maintaining the health of shellfish.

ShellWorkA sea firefly taken from an Akoya shell. The pearl layer is thick and gives off a solid shine.


Even though the company is certified as a "UMI HOTARU", the grades are divided into about 5 stages, and sCenes selects only the best ones from the top grade lots.


For this special feature, we have prepared jewelry using UMI HOTARU.
Including COLLECTIBLE PEARL, we have tailored the design so that you can enjoy the beauty of UMI HOTARU such as chain backing, so please have a look.
Jewelery using UMI HOTARU will be added at any time in the future.




■ - Yusuke Chikazawa -
The fifth generation of the Kitamura Pearl Farm, which has been in business for over 120 years.
Since assuming the post of president in 2015, he has been a young leader in the pearl industry, serving as a lecturer at seminars at events such as the International Jewelery Exhibition, a pearl test instructor, and a chairman of the Pearl City Kobe Council.
Very friendly and sincere
Due to his personality, he was willing and polite to answer this interview.


[Kitamura Pearl Culture Co., Ltd.]
One of the leading aquaculture companies in Japan.
It is one of the few companies that grows juvenile mussels and cultivates them under in-house integrated management. It has proved its high quality by receiving the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award, which is one of the proofs, many times.

For a more detailed history and explanation of pearl farming, please visit the site.