The Imperial Pearl Capitol - Cultured Pearl Model of U.S. Capitol Building

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Origin of Name :-

The name "Imperial Pearl Capitol" refers to an exquisitely crafted 5-foot long model of the United States Capitol Building that houses the meeting chambers of two of the important governing bodies of the United States Government, the Senate and the House of Representatives, whose architecture was inspired by neoclassical designs. The materials used on the model are mother-of-pearl and cultured akoya pearls from Japan, and was commissioned in 1959, by the Imperial Pearl Syndicate, a renowned US-based company dealing in pearls, from their partners Oteki Pearl Farms Ltd. based in the "City of Pearls," Kobe,  in Japan. At first the Japanese company embarked on an effort to collect matching pearls, of appropriate size, shape, color, luster, orient, and surface qualities, required to execute the project, an effort that took almost two years to complete. Eventually, after the project was completed, Oteki Pearl Farms handed over the model to Imperial Pearl Syndicate, which later presented it to the United States Capitol Historical Society. The unveiling ceremony of the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" took place on February 1, 1966, at the Explorer's Hall, of the National Geographic Society, Washington D.C. with many distinguished guests in attendance. Thus the name "Imperial Pearl Capitol" reflects the name of the company that commissioned the model, the material used in the model, and the subject or theme that was used for the model.

The ambitious project that made use of over 200,000 cultured pearls, was part of an advertising campaign by Imperial Pearl Syndicate, to popularize the use of Japanese cultured pearls in the United States, similar to the creation of the size 14, sleeveless, floor-length, female dress, embroidered with 80,000 cultured pearls in the 1940s, also to achieve the same objective, but subsequently donated by the company to the United Service Organization (USO); and the creation in 1952 of a second pearl-encrusted gown carrying 10,000 cultured pearls, also for popularization of the use of cultured pearls, but later donated to the Damon Runyon Memorial Fund for Cancer Research. In all three instances - the "Imperial Pearl Capitol," the "80,000 cultured-pearl embroidered dress" and the "10,000 cultured-pearl encrusted dress" - after the item created had achieved its main objective, viz. popularization of the use of cultured akoya pearls, the object itself was donated by the company for humanitarian or charitable causes or for educational purposes.


Cultured Pearl Model Of US Capitol Building

Cultured Pearl Model Of US Capitol Building

©U.S Capitol Historical Society & Imperial Deltah Inc.

Characteristics of the Imperial Pearl Capitol

The number, size, shape, color and overtones of the pearls used

The "Imperial Pearl Capitol" with its central dome above a rotunda and the north and south wings has a length of approximately 5 feet. The model has a total of 217, 569 cultured akoya pearls incorporated in it. The pearls range in size from 3 to 7 mm, which falls within the range in size of akoya pearls normally produced in Japan - viz. 2 to 11 mm. Most of the pearls are round and near-round in shape, the consistent shape in which most akoya pearls are produced. Akoya pearls are generally white or cream colored, with overtone colors of rose, silver or cream. Most of the pearls used on the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" are cream colored with a rose overtone, and may be characterized as creamy-rose or rosey-cream.


The luster and surface quality of the pearls used

The luster of the pearls are characteristic of akoya pearls, that are renowned for their luster. Luster of a pearl, which is a measure of the quality and quantity of light reflected from the surface, is a function of the thickness and quality of nacre deposited, which depends on how long the pearl was allowed to develop within the oyster. For akoya pearls the grow out period, also known as the husbandry period is between 2 to 3 years, that ensures a thick nacre, which imparts the maximum luster, iridescence and overtones. Under the Mikimoto system of classification there are four grades of luster - AAA (exceptional mirror-like reflection), AA (superb clear reflection), A+ (very good, clear reflection) and A (good clear reflection). Undoubtedly, most of the pearls on the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" must have at least the minimum grade of luster - A, having good clear reflection. Even the surface quality of the pearls must be quite high, varying between slightly blemished to very slightly blemished to minimally blemished and blemish-free surfaces (under the naked eye).

Close Up Of The Base Of The Central Dome Showing The Miniature American Flag

Close Up Of The Base Of The Central Dome Showing The Miniature American Flag

©Imperial Deltah Inc.

Representation of the Statute of Freedom, the American flag, the pillars and windows on the model

The "Imperial Pearl Capitol" a model of perfect proportions, has a "Statute of Freedom" of proportionate size on top of the dome. The windows on the model are made of mother-of-pearl. The miniature American flag at the base of the central dome in front, is made of platinum. The stars on the flag are diamonds, on a field of brilliant blue sapphires. The stripes on the flag are alternating bands of rubies for red stripes, and white cultured-pearls for white stripes. The largest pearls in the model are incorporated in the columns or pillars of the building in front.



History of the Imperial Pearl Capital

The Imperial Pearl Syndicate pioneered the import and sale of Japanese cultured pearls and the development of the cultured pearl industry in the United States

The history of the Imperial Pearl Capitol is closely associated with the history of the US based pearl company, Imperial Pearl Syndicate, which was founded in 1932, by Joseph Goldstone and his brother David Goldstone, who established their first store in Chicago. The company was a pioneer in the import and sale of cultured pearls in the United States, originating from Japan, and was the first to import and popularize the famous akoya pearls from Japan, that gave a big boost to the industry. The company's involvement in the cultured pearl trade lead to the establishment of close working relationships with most of the companies in Japan, involved in the cultured pearl industry, the producers as well as the marketers. The expertise gained by the company in the cultured pearl industry, helped them to pioneer the development of this industry in the United States.


Imperial Pearl Syndicate's contribution in re-organizing the Japanese cultured pearl industry after World War II.

The company also made a significant contribution to the pearl farming industry, by developing a special anesthetic solution in the early 1950s, that anesthetized oysters, enabling the painless introduction of irritants into them by injection, that drastically reduced the mortality rate of the oysters after implantation. But undoubtedly, the greatest contribution of the company, particularly by Joseph Goldstone, was the assistance he rendered in 1947, at the request of the United States Government, in reorganizing the devastated cultured pearl industry of Japan, caused by the second world war. Working under General Douglas McArthur, Joseph Goldstone helped to re-organize the cultured-pearl industry, and also set up quality standards, and got a yen-dollar equivalent, to enable Japanese pearl culturists to export profitably to the American market. When the so-called "Lot 88" consisting of an enormous collection of cultured pearls, matched in terms of size, shape, color and luster and pooled together, and kept in the subterranean vaults of the Bank of Japan, during the period of the war, was put up for sale by public auction, under the orders of the Supreme Commander of the Asiatic and Pacific Forces in 1950, Joseph Goldstone's Imperial Pearl Syndicate, successfully bid for and acquired the renowned collection, bringing it to the United States in October 1950, and offering them for sale to their US customers, set in different forms of jewelry.


Consumer resistance to cultured pearls in the 1920s and 1930s, that led to an aggressive campaign by Mikimoto to promote these pearls

When cultured pearls were first developed by the Japanese in commercial quantities in the 1930s, there was initial worldwide consumer resistance to the new product, as the pearl markets of the world were hitherto accustomed only to the scarce natural pearls coming from producer countries of the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Mannar and the west coast of Australia. Mikimoto himself led an aggressive campaign to popularize the pearls which he helped to create, taking part in international exhibitions, educating the public that cultured pearls were not artificial pearls, but pearls created by oysters, artificially induced to produce them. After a long drawn out campaign again vested interests, Mikimoto was able to refute the mistaken notion, that cultured pearls were only cheap imitations of the real natural pearls. Mikimoto even went to the extent of burning tons of low-quality cultured pearls in 1932, to instill consumer confidence.


Mikimoto adopts the strategy of exhibiting models of renowned landmarks encrusted with cultured pearls at international exhibitions, to promote his cultured pearls

Mikimoto personally took part in several international exhibitions to promote cultured pearls. The first international exhibition in which he took part was the Philadelphia World Exposition held in 1926, where he displayed a replica of a five-storied pagoda, covered with cultured pearls. Then in 1933, he took part in the Chicago World Fair, where he exhibited a model of George Washington's residence, covered with cultured pearls. In 1937, he displayed the "Wheel of Arrows" (Yaguruma), encrusted with cultured pearls at the Paris Exposition. In 1939, he participated in the New York World Fair, where he displayed a replica of the "Liberty Bell" covered with cultured pearls. Such aggressive advertising campaigns carried out personally by Mikimoto, eventually led to the acceptance of cultured pearls as authentic, by the general public, and particularly the consumers of the United States and Europe.


Joseph Goldstone also adopts an aggressive advertising policy to promote his pearls. He designs two pearl embroidered dresses one in 1940 and the other in 1952, to achieve the same end, but the dresses were later donated for charitable causes

In keeping with the strategy adopted by Mikimoto to popularize his cultured pearls, Joseph Goldstone too adopted an aggressive advertising campaign to popularize the cultured pearls marketed by his company. In the 1940s he pioneered a unique marketing strategy that featured some of Hollywood's most popular actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple and Loretta Young in advertisements of the company, to promote his cultured pearls. In 1940 and in 1952, Joseph Goldstone slightly modified Mikimoto's strategy, and instead of creating models of any renowned landmarks, designed two fabulous pearl encrusted dresses, which were later worn by celebrities, driving home the desired message more effectively. The sleeveless, floor-length dress created in the early 1940s, was embroidered with 80,000 cultured pearls, and had a weight of 50 pounds (22.7 Kg). After the pearl-embroidered dress was successfully used in its promotional campaign, David Goldstone, the vice-president of Imperial Pearl Syndicate, gifted the unique dress to the United Service organization (USO), to help raise funds for its activities. The dress was personally handed over by David Goldstone to Mrs. Irwing Berlin, member of the USO's National Women's Committee. The dress was subsequently dismantled into eighty packages of 1,000 pearls each, and sent to departmental stores in large cities, and sold at the rate of one dollar each, realizing a total of $80,000, for the benefit of the USO.

The pearl-embroidered dress designed in 1952, was made up of 10,000 cultured pearls, and estimated to cost $100,000. The dress was exhibited in 20 cities across the United States, and at one of the displays the renowned TV and screen star Nina Foch appeared in public wearing the dress. Like the 80,000-pearl dress created in 1940, after the successful promotion campaign, the 10,000-pearl dress was also donated for a humanitarian cause, the Damon Runyon Memorial Fund for Cancer Research.


The creation of the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" was in keeping with Mikimoto's tradition of creating models of renowned landmarks to promote cultured pearls

Joseph Goldstone the president and founder of the Imperial Pearl Syndicate died in 1957. In 1959, two years after his death, the company commissioned the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" from their partners in Japan, Oteki Pearl Farms Ltd. based in the city of Kobe. The creation of the "Imperial Pearl Capital" a model of the famous landmark in Washington D.C. was totally in keeping with the tradition set by Mikimoto himself, in the 1920s and 1930s, who created several such models, such as George Washington's residence, the Liberty Bell etc. covered with pearls, and displayed at international exhibitions, for the promotion of his pearls. However, the incorporation of 217,569 cultured akoya pearls, is unprecedented in the history of creation of such models. The "Imperial Pearl Capitol" not only served as a promotion for cultured pearls in the short term, but subsequently after the model was donated to the United States Capitol Historical Society on February 1, 1966, the model continued to promote the cause of cultured pearls, in the long term, when it was put under public display by the society. The "Imperial Pearl Capitol" remained on public display at the society for almost 40 years, until the year 2005.


Estimates of the value of the Imperial Pearl Capitol

In the year 1966, when the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" was donated to the United States Capitol Historical Society, the total value of the model was estimated at $250,000, and the miniature American flag alone made of platinum and set with sapphires, rubies and pearls was valued at $5,000. Twenty two years later in 1988, the Imperial Pearl Capitol was appraised by Boone-Sons Inc. of McLean, VA, with the following comment :-"It is our opinion, to replace this fabulous replica, the cost would be approximately $640,000, wholesale, a very conservative amount." If the 217,569 high-quality pearls were broken down to necklaces of 50 pearls each, it would result in 4352 necklaces. If each necklace was priced at approximately $150, the total value of all the necklaces would be $652,800. This would be another way of estimating the approximate value of the "Imperial Pearl Capitol."


The United States Capitol Historical Society decides to put up the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" for sale in November 2005

In the year 2005, the United States Capitol Historical Society, that had owned and displayed the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" to the general public for nearly 40 years, decided to sell the masterpiece by public auction, and entrusted the auction house, Sloans & Kenyon Fine Art Auctioneers based in Bethesda, Maryland, to offer the piece for auction at one of their regular sales. The reasons given by the Society for auctioning the masterpiece was :- 1) The lack of adequate space to display the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" to the public, enabling the appreciation of its fine workmanship by a broad audience. 2) To generate funds for the Society's educational mission, which was considered its first priority.


The sale is entrusted to Sloans & Kenyon of Maryland, which fixes the auction for November 5 and 6, 2005.

Sloans & Kenyon fixed the auction for November 5 & 6, 2005, as part of an impressive collection of fine art and other memorabilia, that included the provocative and controversial oil on canvas nude "Phryne" by the Brazilian artist Antonio Parreiras; a rare jewelry box carved by Malcolm X during his incarceration at Charlestown Prison, Massachusetts,  in 1952; a fine Frederic Remington water color of "Buffalo Soldier" leader Colonel Watson; the "World's Largest Rubber Band Ball," weighing over 3,120 pounds, that had entered the Guinness Book of World Records; signed first editions of various literary works, such as John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage,"  and Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night;" a landscape painting by President Dwight D. Eisenhower; a George Washington revolutionary war order written at Valley Forge; a Civil War painting by Julian Scott depicting the Battle of Haymarket, Virginia; "Orange Geometrics" a painting by Frank Sinatra; and an assortment of other Hollywood memorabilia.


The "Imperial Pearl Capitol" was withdrawn from the sale after the highest bid failed to meet the reserve price.

The pre-sale estimate of the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" was placed at between $100,000 to $125,000. The model was covered by a new case fashioned by the Society for security and display purposes, and was accompanied by documents and photographs, dating back to 1965, such as photographs of the Imperial Pearl Capitol with representatives of Imperial Pearl Syndicate, and the original invitation for the unveiling ceremony of February 1, 1966. However, the highest bid achieved at the auction for the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" was $90,000, which fell short of meeting its reserve, and the celebrated item was withdrawn from the sale.


The United States Capitol Historical Society initiates negotiations with Imperial-Deltah Inc. the donors of the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" for its return to the company

Following the unsuccessful bid to get a reasonable price for the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" the United States Capitol Historical Society which needed funds for its educational mission, started negotiations with the donors of the masterpiece, Imperial Pearl Syndicate, to return the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" to the company, perhaps in exchange for financial support of its programs. Jonathan Louttit led the negotiations on behalf of the Society, and the company which had now become the Imperial-Deltah Inc. after merger with Pearls by Deltah, and was owned and managed by the Bazar Group, was represented by Mr. Bazar.

A letter written by the United States Capitol Historical Society to Mr. Bazar of Imperial-Deltah Inc. lays out the reasons that prompted the Society to dispose of the Imperial Pearl Capitol; the Society's need for funds to further their objectives; the unsuccessful attempt made by the Society to dispose of the model by public auction; and the reasons why the Imperial Pearl Syndicate should re-acquire the masterpiece from the Society. The letter ended as follows :- "We hope that the pearl capitol will find a home in a showroom or building lobby where its fine workmanship can be appreciated by a broad audience.  Since this item was created by the Imperial Pearl Syndicate and you remain the premier pearl company in America, you would provide the ideal setting for this unique model.  It is an absolutely beautiful piece."


An agreement was signed on December 21, 2005, for the return of the Imperial Pearl Capitol to Imperial-Deltah Inc. after nearly 40 years

The negotiations were concluded successfully, and on December 21, 2005, an agreement was signed at the Explorer's Hall of the National Geographic Society, Washington DC - the same venue where the model was unveiled in 1966,  nearly 40 years ago - to return the "Imperial Pearl Capitol"  to Imperial-Deltah Inc. The terms of the agreement was not made public.


Imperial-Deltah Inc. uses the "Imperial Pearl Capitol," together with the "Imperial Crown" and "Imperial Hong-Kong Pearl" for the promotion of cultured pearls

Thus, the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" joined the treasures of the Imperial-Deltah Inc. that also included the renowned pearl studded "Imperial Crown" and  the historic "Imperial Hong Kong Pearl" aka the "Miracle of the Sea" believed to have been owned at one time by Empress Dowager Tz'u-Hsi, who ruled China for 47 years from 1861 to 1908. The company planned to display the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" at various jewelry shows and exhibitions to promote cultured pearls, in keeping with the original objectives of the creators of the masterpiece, and also make it available to jewelers for pearl promotion events.


A short history of the United States Capitol Building

Construction work on the "Capitol," the symbol of democracy of the United States, began in 1793 and was completed in 1811

A comprehensive account of the "Imperial Pearl Capitol" would not be complete, without a brief history of the Capitol Building itself, whose architectural style has been characterized as Neoclassical. Known as the "United States Capitol" the building that houses the meeting chambers of two of the governing bodies of the US Government, the Senate and the House of Representatives, has become a symbol of democracy in America, and ranks among the most architecturally impressive buildings in the United States. The foundation for the building was laid by George Washington himself on September 18, 1793. The design for the building was chosen following a competition, proposed by President George Washington and Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. The design submitted by Dr. William Thornton, a Scottish-trained physician living in the British West Indies, was finally chosen for the project, and was commended by George Washington for its "grandeur, simplicity and beauty" and also praised by Thomas Jefferson. Thornton's design was inspired by the east front of the Louvre, as well as the Roman Pantheon for the center portion of the design. The actual construction of the building was entrusted to a trained French architect, Stephen Hallet, who was appointed as superintendent of construction, and who worked with Thornton to make certain revisions to the original plan. Hallet was eventually dismissed by Jefferson in 1794 for making inappropriate design changes and was replaced by George Hadfield, who too was replaced in 1798 for the same reason, by James Hoban, the winner of the competition for President's House, under whose supervision the north wing (Senate wing) was completed, for the first session of Congress on November 17, 1800. Construction again resumed in 1803, under the supervision of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who completed the south wing (House wing) in 1811.

The Western Front Of The U.S Capitol Building

The Western Front Of The U.S Capitol Building

British troops set fire to the Capitol building in 1814, during the course of the war of 1812. Restoration completed in 1819.

Soon after the completion of both wings, the War of 1812 with Britain, broke out, and British troops set fire to the Capitol building on August 24, 1814. Luckily a rainstorm prevented the complete destruction of the building. Reconstruction under Latrobe began again in 1815, who made changes to the buildings interior design, and introduced new materials such as marble. Latrobe resigned in 1817, and was succeeded by Charles Bulfinch, a Boston architect, who completed the restoration by 1819. Bulfinch was also responsible for re-designing the central section, that included the first dome.

George Washington- The First President Of The United States

George Washington- The First President Of The United States

Thomas Jefferson- Secretary Of State Under George Washington & 3rd President Of The United States

Thomas Jefferson- Secretary Of State Under George Washington & 3rd President Of The United States

Expansion of the "Capitol" and the construction of the new dome began in the 1850s and was finally completed in 1868.

In 1850, an urgent need for the expansion of the "Capitol" was realized as the building could no longer accommodate the increase in number of Senators and members of the House of Representatives. A second competition was held for the best plan to extend the "Capitol" and five plans were chosen, and Thomas Walter was appointed to supervise the construction of the extensions. Walter's main task was to ensure that the extensions conformed to the existing style of the building, He also used marble for the exterior instead of sandstone, that deteriorated quickly. As the extensions were completed, the length of the "Capitol" more than doubled, and the existing dome appeared too small, for the new proportions of the building. The old dome was dismantled in 1856, and work began on a new fireproof cast-iron dome, three times the height of the original dome, and 100 feet in diameter. Construction work was suspended during the American civil war in 1861, and the "Capitol" was used as a military barracks, hospital and bakery. However, construction resumed in 1862, under the orders of Abraham Lincoln, and the work on the dome and the extensions were finally completed in 1868, under Walter's assistant Edward Clark. A second fire in 1898, showed the need for fireproofing of the building, and the reconstruction of the damaged wing and the fireproofing of the building was carried out under Clark's successor Elliot Woods. Modifications carried out to the building in the 20th century, from 1959 to 1960, added 102 more rooms, by the east front extension. The stonework was also changed from sandstone to Georgia marble. Since then emphasis has been on strengthening, renovating and preserving the building, rather than any further extensions.

Aerial view of the Capitol Building and surroundings

Aerial view of the Capitol Building and surroundings

The location, extent and origin of the name "Capitol"

The "Capitol" is located on the Capitol Hill, at the east end of the National Mall. The building covers a ground area of 175,170 sq.ft., but the entire Capitol Grounds covers an area of approximately 274 acres. The statute on top of the dome is the Statute of Freedom. Underground tunnels and a private underground railway, connect the main Capitol building with each of the Congressional office buildings in the surrounding complex. It was Thomas Jefferson who insisted that the legislative building be called the "Capitol" rather than the "Congress House." The name "Capitol" comes from the Latin "city on a hill" and is associated with the Roman temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus on Capitoline Hill.



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Related :-

1) The Imperial Hong Kong Pearl

2) The Marilynn Monroe Pearl Necklace


External Links :- 

1) United States Capitol Historical Society


References :-

1) Imperial Pearl Capitol Comes Home after 40 years -

2) Pearl Perspectives - Imperial Pearl Capitol Comes Home After 40 Years -

3) Sloans & Kenyon to Auction Extraordinary Selection of Eclectic Americana Nov. 5-6.

4) United States Capitol - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

5) USCapitol -

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