Koji Kawamoto answers 7 questions
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Koji Kawamoto has had a relationship with pearls pretty much his whole life.
Hailing from Japan, Kawamoto’s family has harvested pearls for three generations.
Ninety-five percent of the world’s pearls are cultured in water farms in Australia, Tahiti, Philippines and China, the home of freshwater pearls. When it was time for Kawamoto to step into the family business, he went to Austrialian waters to learn and teach pearl cultivation, and now he flies back and forth from Japan and New York selling his stringed treasures.
Kawamoto brings his collection of pearls ” and his expertise ” to Karats Saturday and Sunday for a trunk show and seminar. Here, Kawamoto takes time out to discuss his favorite treasures from the sea with the Vail Daily.
1. Vail Daily: Describe the pearl collection you are bringing to Karats.
Koji Kawamoto: Japanese Akoya Pearls, Australian White South Sea Pearls, Tahitian Black Pearls, Golden South Sea Pearls from the Philippines and Chinese freshwater pearls and some pearl jewelry.
2. VD: On Saturday, you will be giving a talk about pearls and passing around samples. How do you know if a pearl is good or bad? What should shoppers consider?
KK: The important factors are shape, cleanliness, color and luster. Luster is really important. You can see yourself clearly in the lustrous pearls as if you are trapped in the piece. The color is also important: white, pink, pistachio, eggplant, blue, silver, gold… what you choose depends on your hair color and skin tone. I am a match maker ” I will find you the best pearl for you.
3. VD: Ninety-five percent of the world’s pearls are cultivated in water farms in Japan, Australia, Tahiti, Philippines and China, the home of freshwater pearls. But nature still determines the majority of the outcome, like luster. How can a shopper determine if the pearl has good luster?
KK: You can see yourself clearly in the pearl. When we culture pearls, we move all the oysters to the cold water a month before the harvest to get nice luster and color. It is called a final make-up.
4. VD: The secrets of pearl cultivation were first discovered in the late 1800s by Kokichi Mikimoto, in Japan, who grew the bead in Akoya oysters, producing the classic white pearl. But now, pearls come in all shades, from pistachio green to a purple eggplant. What colors are the hardest to find? What colors are most popular right now?
KK: It is actually up to personal preference, however, purple eggplant is really popular right now, pistachio and silver are popular as well. Traditionally pinkish tone is very desirable.
5. VD: Your family has harvested pearls for three generations. Has climate change affected the cultivation process?
KK: Yes, it has affected. The cultivation process is really sensitive, slight change of water temperature and the number of plankton…etc… may change the quality of entire harvest.
6. VD: One of your favorite types of pearls is the Keshi, or natural pearls. Describe why you like Keshi and explain why they are “natural”?
KK: If any foreign substance accidentally gets into the oyster, the oyster starts secreting and creates a pearl sack. During cultivation, wild oysters are caught and then seeded with a nucleus made from a shell. If we X-ray, we don’t find a nucleus in the natural pearl. It is really a beauty of nature.
7. VD: Is there a difference between natural and cultured pearls? Is there a difference in price?
KK: It is so rare for natural pearls to come out as round as cultured pearls. If natural pearls are big and round, they would be so valuable and priceless.
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