A match made in Vail | VailDaily.com

A match made in Vail

Shauna Farnell
Daily Correspondent

Special to the Daily/Shauna Farnell

Koji Kawamoto goes by many identities: lawyer, certified public accountant, pearl specialist and designer, but the title he prefers most of all is “matchmaker.” Of all his skills, above the others, he helps unite people with their perfect partner, finding unions in which one entity makes the other one truly sparkle, pairing individuals who simply look good together. One of the partners is almost always a woman. The other is a little white ball of calcium carbonate. But sometimes it is black. Or pink. Or lavender. His candidates come in a rainbow of colors, actually, and are not always perfectly round. But that is all part of their charm.

“I believe that all of my pearls will eventually meet someone,” said Kawamoto, who hails from Mie Prefecture, Japan, where the process of culturing pearls was first discovered. “Something just clicks in my mind and I make a combination. I actually never know which one is a winning combination until I and my pearls meet somebody who really falls in love with my combination.”

Kawamoto – who carries both a law and certified public accountant degree in order to better run and understand the pearl and pearl-harvesting business – collects pearls from all over the world: saltwater and freshwater, cultured and natural. Though pearls of all varieties are born through a fascinating process of development inside of oysters and clams, their complexity and magic goes beyond this for Kawamoto and his people.

“We believe that pearls are amulets, which protect you and your family,” he said. “They are so precious and beautiful and have special power to make people happy. I am a happy man because I am making someone happy every day by my work.”

Karats of Vail owner Dan Telleen recognized this rare skill in Kawamoto when he began carrying the matchmaker’s pearls several years ago.

“He matches the pearl to the girl,” Telleen said. “It’s important if you go out and buy a strand of pearls for somebody – even yourself – you have to consider the color of your skin, your eyes, the texture of the pearl, to find the perfect pearl. Koji mixes a lot of pearls you wouldn’t think of mixing. A few years ago, you would never put saltwater pearls with freshwater pearls. It’s just a rule you didn’t break. But Koji broke that rule. And the mix is just gorgeous.”

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While Kawamoto believes there is a unique strand of pearls for every woman, he also believes that every woman should own an Akoya pearl necklace – the classic white with pinkish overtones. Colors are tied largely to location. Freshwater pearls, which are mainly harvested in China, yield white, lavender and peach, while South Sea pearls are silvery and golden. Tahiti is one of the renowned homes of the black pearl, but Tahitian varieties can also come in green, red and blue.

This weekend, Kawamoto is bringing brand new strands of freshly harvested pearls from Rikitea Island and French Polynesia of deep green, red and blue. Though any shelled sea animal can create pearls, Kawamoto finds unlikely producers in exotic places. Teaching the intricacies of what makes a pearl and the incredible variety that exist is part of his show this weekend. He will be conducting a pearl presentation at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at La Tour restaurant.

“People can bring their pearls if they wonder if they’re real or not,” Tellen said. “They can ask if they’re thinking about buying South Sea pearls, what does that mean? People need to educate their eye. The more they know, the more they appreciate what they’re looking for. If they’re thinking of buying pearls, Koji is a really good source of information. We have lots of pearls to talk about.”

Shauna Farnell is a marketing consultant for Karats. E-mail comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.