Discovery of the Pearl Cultivating Technique

Early Discoverer of the Cultured Pearl Technique

 Nishikawa and Mise, are recognised for the discovery of the pearl cultivating technique, that resulted in Cultured Pearls;  more specifically the world-renowned Japanese Mikimoto Cultured Pearls.  Tokichi Nishikawa and  Tatsuhei Mise are Japanese scientists. 

Read More About The History of Cultured Pearls Here

 Australian, C. Denis George, raised eyebrows when he convincingly argued that it was not  the Japanese who first discovered the technique of culturing pearls but a British-expatriate living down-under in Australia by the name of William Saville-Kent. (b. 1845 - 1908) 

George challenges the credit normally given to the Japanese, and claims it's just  a myth.

Read more Information about Pearls 

George argues that Nishikawa and Mise were originally introduced to successful pearl cultivation on Thursday Island  under the expert guidance of William Saville-Kent. (TI short for Thursday Island lies just north of the tip of Cape York in Australia in the Torres Strait)

In his controversial article:

Debunking a Widely Held Japanese Myth: Historical Aspects on the Early Discovery of the Pearl Cultivating Technique," (pdf) 

George campaigns for William Saville-Kent to receive proper recognition for his pioneering efforts and the fundamental breakthrough in early pearl culturing techniques.

Map of Thursday Island (TI)

Discovery of the Pearl Cultivating Technique
was in the Surrounding Waters of Thursday Island

George claims that Saville-Kent shared his bead and tissue-piece technique around the late 1800's with the two Japanese scientists on Thursday Island. The two scientists  then went back to Japan and repeated the technique in Akoya Mollusks and claimed it as their  discovery.

Using texts and personal accounts as evidence, George places Nishikawa and Mise in Australia during Kent's pearl operations on Thursday Island. The trip predates Nishikawa and Mise's application for patent.

George further cites Japanese reluctance to acknowledge Saville-Kent's pearl research in text and conversation as evidence to support if not the deception, the Japanese act of cultured pearl omission.

George has written numerous reports on the subject or  omission (however you see it) and went on to establish the "William Saville-Kent Memorial Pearl Museum". Denis George even named his pearling boat, "TSMV William Saville-Kent" in recognition of his hero. Now, that's  saying something!

George concludes his article by appealing to the pearling community and supporters at large, to give William Saville-Kent, and his ground-breaking pearl experiments a "fair-go" and the proper respect and recognition they deserve. He might just have a point.


Saville-Kent, W. The Great Barrier Reef. London, W H Allen, 1893

Special Thanks to Pearl World: The International Pearling Journal.

From abstract by Anna Kerrig, 15th May 2009,

Image courtesy of

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