Koji Kawamoto returns to Karats of Vail with international pearl collection
If you go …
What: Pearl specialist Koji Kawamoto’s holiday show, featuring pearls from all over the globe.
Where: Karats of Vail, 122 E. Meadow Drive, Vail Village.
When: Friday, Dec. 18, through Friday, Dec. 25, with a possible encore show to ring in 2016; Karats is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
More information: Call 970-476-4760.
VAIL — Born and raised in Mie Prefecture, Japan — the world’s pearl-culturing capital — Koji Kawamoto didn’t truly grasp the depth and power of pearls until he moved to western Australia in his 20s.
There, he discovered pearl farms specializing in South Sea pearls and he began working with his friends in Mie Prefecture to exchange culturing ideas with the farms to grow and harvest only the most spectacular and unique pearls. The business would eventually include specimens harvested from all over the world.
expert in the field
While culturing pearls allows humans to somewhat control and farm the production of the exotic gems, ultimately it is still the shell of the individual mollusk (clam, oyster or mussel) and its own process of transformation that determines the color and character of the pearl it produces. Some pearls develop rings like those you see in rock formations; others develop unique dents that reflect the light from different directions. Looking as carefully as possible at a strand that, color-wise, looks completely uniform from a distance, there is no question that no two pearls are the same.
Kawamoto has become an expert on the varieties. He constantly educates his customers on selection and how to choose pieces that truly bring out the radiance in each individual. People perhaps believe that white or off-white is the only color of a true pearl. Wrong. Pearls naturally take on the color of the shell of the animal in which they grow. The hues literally run the entire spectrum of the color wheel, from dark purples to light greens, deep gold to silky pink.
“When I make a strand, I think of somebody,” said Kawamoto, who now resides in New York City and will present his pearl collection during holiday shows at Karats of Vail from Friday through Dec. 25, with a possible encore show to welcome in the new year.
“When I make a strand, I think of somebody … if you have never owned a pearl necklace, you might say, ‘This strand has everything. It might be the one.’”
“Living in this country, I meet different people, people with so many skin tones and eye colors,” he said. “If I think of someone with red hair and light skin, I make a strand with pistachio pearls. They will make those eyes pop and make the whole person shine.”
Among many others, Kawamoto will be showcasing new strands of rare Tahitian pearls from the small town of Rikitea in French Polynesia’s Gambier Islands. While many strands in his collection feature specimens of the same hue, the pearl specialist also designs multicolored strands — emerald green with blue, aubergine, at least one color to light up anyone’s eyes or make their skin glow. These strands often grab the attention of jewelry shoppers who are not necessarily pearl fans. They are also popular for pearl enthusiasts whose collections already include traditional white Akoyas, freshwater and other homogenous pieces.
“Some are all shades of light green. Sometimes I put gold, white and green, all different colors together. It’s all completely intuitive,” Kawamoto said. “If you have Tahitian, also white and want to keep buying something beautiful, multi-colors are good. If you have never owned a pearl necklace, you might say, ‘This strand has everything. It might be the one.’”
The most striking characteristic of Kawamoto’s entire collection is that each pearl is completely one of a kind, unlike anything found in department stores or produced in mass quantities.
“First of all, my friends do the sorting for each variety,” he said. “They have a size and shape, then I pick what I want. I’m interested in high luster and baroque shape. In Japan, many people have black eyes and want just the black Tahitian pearls — like a solid, telephone black. That’s not interesting to me. I’m always looking for the very different, amazing colors.”