A longstanding tradition at Karats, pearl expert Koji Kawamoto returns to the Vail jewelry store Friday through Monday.
Kawamoto hails from Mie Prefecture, Japan, the very place where pearl culturing was first pioneered. He's brought a series of his finest strands of not just white but black, gold, rose and fresh water pearls to Karats.
"If you wear pearls, you and your family are protected - that's what we say and believe in my hometown," said Kawamoto, who also holds a law degree in Japan and a CPA degree here in the U.S. and began dabbling in pearls out of sheer fascination and passion. "They are a pretty, feminine gem so they can't go wrong as a Christmas gift. Pearls are the gems of the moon and stars, the perfect beginning."
Moon and stars are the abstract origin - possibly the very core of a pearl - but more specifically, pearls are bred in mollusks (clams, mussels and oysters) and the process is fascinating.
A pearl is born when an irritant - such as a piece of sand - is lodged into the soft tissue of a mollusk and the mollusk responds by secreting a coating that covers the irritant. After several layers of coating, it becomes smooth and dense. Voila. A pearl. The color of the creature's shell housing the pearl dictates the color of the jewel.
"I brought big freshwater Baroque pearl strands, the color of which is either white or pinkish lavender - this is something new - and South Sea multicolor strands, which are the combination of white, golden and Tahitian pearls. In order for you and your family to be protected, just one piece of pearl will work," Kawamoto said.
If you are unversed in the complexity and variety of pearls, which can be dizzying, Kawamoto is available throughout the Karats show to walk you through the nuances of every kind.
"You go into any pearl store, they'll have pearls, but when Koji comes in, there is so much variety, it's really like going into somebody's warehouse rather than a jewelry store," said Karats owner Dan Telleen. "It can be overwhelming if you don't know pearls and you don't have a trained eye. It's pretty special to have all this variety and a guide to take you through it. Koji knows absolutely everything about them."
If Kawamoto were to subscribe to any single belief it is that every woman on the face of the earth should own a piece of pearl jewelry - both for its beauty and its protective powers. The pearls in his holiday show collection include necklaces, earrings, pendants and rings.