Japan: Luster Regained

Kokichi Mikimoto, who founded Japan's cultured-pearl industry at the turn of the century, once vowed that with his gems he would "choke the lovely necks" of women around the world. For decades, his boast seemed to be coming true. Cultured pearls — the lustrous kind that grows after a tiny grain of clam shell is inserted into the mantle of an oyster— expanded into a $90 million-a-year business. Thousands of families, including half of the 18,000 population in the western Japanese town of Shima, earned a livelihood raising pearl-bearing oysters in baskets...

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