Karats in Vail rings in the new year with jewelry show

A fishnet necklace by Carolyn Tyler.
Special to the Weekly |

If you go ...

What: Carolyn Tyler’s colorful designs and Koji Kawamoto’s pearls from around the globe.

When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Where: Karats in Vail Village, across from Solaris.

More information: 970-476-4760.

VAIL — Jewelry artist Carolyn Tyler and Japanese pearl specialist Koji Kawamoto share a great passion for finding rare gems that possess unusual beauty and summon the loveliness of anyone who wears them.

Kawamoto hails from Mie Prefecture, Japan, where the process of culturing pearls was first developed. He travels the world collecting rare specimens of the mollusk-born jewels in a range of delicious colors such as eggplant, peach, champagne and chocolate.

He keeps his presentation simple, weaving long strands of lustrous Tahitian pearls in shades of silver, gray and black with shimmering rainbow overtones, and South Sea pearls in white and golden. He combines strands of pale pink, peach and cream baroque pearls that reflect tones of yellow, blue and green. Some of his hottest items are snow white Akoya pearls set as stud earrings, or strands that can be custom made into any length necklace.


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Tyler’s gems are set in artful designs that are reminiscent of pirate hoards and the buried treasures of ancient cultures. Her original designs are handcrafted by her team of goldsmiths in Bali, where she lives part-time. The necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings and pendants glimmer with opals, sapphires, coral, pearls, turquoise, ammolites and collector’s gems as their centerpieces. Some pieces feature amulets and carvings of deities, others use gems in a hypnotizing display of color.


For the first time ever, both artists will present a joint trunk show at Karats of Vail from today through Sunday.

“I’m looking forward to doing the show with Koji for a few reasons. He has been a friend for a long time — I bought some of my first pearls from him many years ago,” Tyler said. “Also, it’s really convenient for people to buy his loose pearls and then have me make a necklace with gold spacers or a 22-karat gold clasp, which I can design on the spot.”

One of Tyler’s most striking pearl designs — coincidentally one of her best sellers — is a pearl lariat that can be unscrewed to become two or three nesting necklaces, the longest of which is 52 inches and is marked by gold tassels, which also unscrew.

Some of Koji’s best-sellers are long pearl strands — 60 to 72 inches, featuring combinations of white Akoya, freshwater and other varieties in complementary pastel tones of cream, pink, peach and gold.

“The amazing thing about pearls is what they do to a woman’s complexion,” Tyler said. “Whether you’re blonde, brunette, gray or a redhead, they make it glow.”

Kawamoto understands this and is an expert when it comes to matching each person with a particular color, shape and style of pearl jewelry. His engaging personality and eye for what looks good makes it fun to “play” with his treasures.

“I believe that all of my pearls will eventually meet someone,” he said. “Something just clicks. I actually never know which one is a winning combination until my pearls meet somebody who really falls in love with them. Skin tone is important. In Japan and Asia, often they go for black or golden. For fair skin, it might be a soft champagne color. I never know until they put the pearls around their neck.”

Although Kawamoto’s pearl combinations and Tyler’s unique designs bear little resemblance to one another, both artists have traveled the world collecting the gems that are the heart of their work. As they discover the gems that speak to them, each is inspired to create designs that will enhance the beauty of those who are lucky enough to acquire their creations.

“I want people to feel they have something really unique that they will treasure for a lifetime and pass down to their loves ones,” Tyler said.

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