The Story of the Art of Pearl Faceting
Fascinated, utterly and completely, is how I would describe myself when I saw my first faceted pearl. This was innovation, a completely novel idea which had given pearls something of a “make-over.” Like a gemstone with so many different surfaces and planes, a faceted pearl has the ability to reflect light and create a scintillating and resplendent luminosity that is hard to ignore.
The thing with faceted pearls is that you cannot be on the fence about them-for some it is something new and unique, something to be admired and embraced. However, for others, it is an injury to their sensibilities, something to be resisted tooth and nail. That a pearl can provoke such strong and varied reactions makes it all the more special in my eyes, a beautiful and unique gem that cannot be ignored!
The more I thought about faceted pearls, the more curious I became about the origin of this highly skilled craft of faceting pearls. So, putting my jewellery detective hat on, I decided to nose around a bit and eventually found what I was looking for. The birth of the first faceted pearl took place in Japan in 1992, that is almost thirty years ago and whether you accept it or not, the pearl world has changed forever since then.
The story of the first faceted pearls, the Hanashinju Pearls really began in 1967, not with pearls, but with diamond cutting. Kazuo Komatsu, the founder of Hanashinju Pearls, started his career at the Nippon Diamond Company, where he learned the meticulous and very precise skill of diamond cutting from German Master Diamond Cutter, Emile Gerber. However, when Nippon Diamond suddenly shut down, Kazuo decided to start his own business and the Komatsu Diamond Co. Ltd. came into being.
Success after success in diamond cutting made Kazuo realize that he could develop an entirely new product using his diamond cutting skills. Pearls with their smooth skins, seemed challenging to facet but also attracted him because it was the only gem produced in Japan. There was another reason for Kazuo’s choice of pearls-he knew that while most Japanese women had pearls, they wore them only on formal occasions. So, he wanted to produce something that Japanese women were familiar with but still be completely different from anything they knew and that could become something they would wear anytime, anywhere.
Developing the skills and technology to facet pearls was an uphill struggle, marked by many setbacks. In fact, in 1989, Kazuo suffered a very serious cerebral haemorrhage but even that did not deter him. After being discharged from hospital, he continued to work on perfecting the pearl faceting technique, despite his left arm being partially paralyzed.
Finally, in 1992, the first fully and perfectly faceted pearl was produced. Kazuo himself was taken by surprise to see the brilliance and lustre of the pearl. Having spent so much time developing the technique to facet pearls, Kazuo had not considered how a fully and perfectly faceted pearl would “express” itself. To him, the faceted pearl looked mysterious and exceptional all at the same time. There was a outstanding glow in the nacre on the faceted surface of the pearl, flooding the pearl with a sublime light! That was when he decided to call the faceted pearl “Hana Pearl.”
Introducing a faceted pearl into the Japanese market was difficult at first, considering that the ideal pearl in Japan is smooth and round. However, slowly people started becoming curious about these pearls and now faceted Hana Pearl are known and recognized all over the world.
The business, Komatsu Cutting Factory, is now run by Kazuo’s son, Kazuhito Komatsu. Kazuhito continues in his father’s brilliant footsteps, having further developed the pearl faceting technique to include new cutting styles, expanding faceting into different types of pearls and developing new overseas markets for faceted pearls.
The Hana Pearl has been patented and while there are many similar faceted pearls, without the proper and patented technology, they do not have the brilliance and allure of the Hana Pearl.
I had the opportunity to connect with Kazuhito Komatsu recently and ask him a few questions about Hanashinju Pearls and the wonderful art of pearl faceting.
What does “Hanashinju” mean and why is it such a good name for the faceted pearls you hand carve?
“Hana” of Hanashinju means “gorgeous and brilliant” in Japanese. Usually “ha-na” means “Flower” and “Shinju” means “pearl” in Japanese.
How do you choose which pearl is good for faceting?
The pearl has to look nice, have smooth surface and great lustre. Because if the pearl looks nice, that means it will have enough layers of nacre for faceting. The pearl’s luster cannot be changed after faceting and spots also cannot be removed. So, we always choice good quality pearls. We consider each pearl very before choosing it for faceting.
How long does it take to facet one pearl?
The production time is different for each pearl but depends on the size of the pearl. For instance, an 11mm pearl will take approximately 50-55minutes for faceting.
How long does it take for a craftsman to learn and master the technique of pearl faceting?
A newly hired staff member can start faceting pearls on the first day. This is because our faceting process is perfectly programmed. But to become really good at faceting, they need to learn the skill day by day and it may take up to 5 years for them to become really proficient at it.
Are all pearls faceted in the same pattern or do you use different styles, designs and templates for different pearls?
There are two main types of faceting cuts. A Normal Faceting Cut and a “Double Refraction Cut. We can make many patterns based on these two cuts. However, the patterns may look different depending on the shape and type of pearl.
Which type of pearl is the most challenging to facet and why?
The Akoya Pearl. Because the Akoya pearl nacre is very thin. So, we check the thickness of the nacre from the hole. If the nacre layer is very thin, then the faceting will start showing the bead nucleus of the pearl.
There are many copies of Hanashinju pearls in the market today but none of them come close to the beauty of a real Hanashinju pearl. What do you think sets you apart from other companies faceting pearls?
Do you know the first copy came from China in 1999? They were very low quality pearls with low quality faceting. However, this Chinese product soon disappeared from the market. They probably realised that using low quality pearls for faceting was useless. I guess they wanted to sell unsold low quality pearls. Our faceting technique right from the start has been developed for very beautiful pearls, high quality pearls.
How and where can pearl lovers purchase Hanashinju pearls?
We export our pearls to 15 countries now. I think people can search for our pearls. But it’s sometime difficult t and find them. But sometimes that may be difficult. This is because we have maintained the highest quality in pearls and faceting, so our supply of faceted pearls is supply is low. We are still operating out of just one factory, but we will start sell via internet very soon at www.hanashinju.tokyo
Are there any jewellery or trade shows you participate in where people can come and look at your faceted pearls?
We exhibit at several jewelry fairs every year. At present we participate in the Hong Kong Jewellery Show in September and March as well as the JCK Las Vegas Show in U.S.A. We also have a wholesale partner in EU, and she takes care of the EU market. You can find her at www.marcharit.com
Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to answer my questions. I really appreciate it.
You can find out more about Hanashinju Pearls at www.hanashijnu.tokyo
You can also follow the Komatsu Cutting Factory on Instagram @kazuhitokomatsu
Featured Image: Tahitian Pearl and 18K White Gold Necklace, Normal Faceted Cut
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