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Little round perfections on display in Vail

Cassie Pence
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Daily file photoKoji, a well-known pearl artist, showcases of some of his pieces at Karats jewelry store in Vail Village.
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VAIL, Colorado –Hailing from Japan, Koji Kawamoto, who will be in Vail, Colorado this weekend, is a bonafide pearl expert. For three generations his family has harvested pearls. Today, 95 percent of pearls are cultured and then harvested in water farms in Australia, Tahiti, Philippines and China, the home of freshwater pearls. Kawamoto spent six years in Australia waters learning and teaching the trade, and now flies back and forth from Japan and New York, selling his stringed treasures.

Kawamoto is in town Friday through Sunday for a pearl jewelry show at Karats in Vail Village. He will be on hand to explain how to tell quality, talk about the origins and different types of pearls as well as how they are cultivated. Here, Kawamoto answers five questions about his favorite treasures from the sea.

1. Vail Daily: There’s no other gem like the pearl that garners such tall tales, legends and myths. Which one is your favorite and why?

Koji Kawamoto: The pearls offer the power of love, protection and luck and strengthen the love relationship. I am hoping that more men give pearls to their loved ones at every special occasion.

The pearls are thought to be the tears of the gods, so if you wear them, you and your family are protected.

2. VD: Your family has harvested pearls for three generations. What powers of the pearl have you or your family personally experienced?

KK: My family has a very strong bonding, every time we challenge something new, we always succeed!

3. VD: From the single-strand pearls of sorority sisters to Carrie Bradshaw’s long sexy pearl necklace in “Sex and the City” – pearls are a versatile gem. What’s your favorite way to wear pearls?

KK: Pearls are generally thought to be worn in formal occasions, however pearls can be worn in any occasions. Especially baroque shape pearls are good for casual occasions. What I am promoting right now is wearing 64″ multi color baroque shape pearl necklace with jeans.

4. VD: You cultivate your pearls by planting a “nucleus” made from a shell in wild oysters. After the seeding, or “the operation,” the oysters are hung inside a panel and reeled out into sea, attached to a long fishing line. Once every two weeks, you turn the oysters over and over to create a round pearl. After two to three years, the oysters are harvested in hopes many will have grown a pearl. Even though the pearls are cultivated, a lot still depends on nature. Has climate change affected pearl cultivation? If so, how? Are you doing anything to combat it?

KK: Warming waters, changes in weather patterns would be changing the sea chemistry and affecting oyster’s health, which will eventually affect the success of the pearl farming. The research is still in the early stages, however we are collecting data to analyze what needs to be done. We may need to move the operations to new areas. Some areas might become more appropriate, while other areas might no longer support pearl farms.

5. VD: What special pearls have you brought to Karats for the trunk show this weekend?

KK: A variety, lots of multi-color necklaces, some are mixture of all kinds of pearls such as South Sea white, golden, tTahitian, freshwater and akoya. To see is to believe.

• Tahitian pearls, of the black lipped oyster, run the gamut of grays, from light flannel to dark charcoal.

• South Sea pearls, of the Pinctada maxima large saltwater oyster, are the largest and have feminine hues and silky luster.

• Golden pearls, of the yellow-lipped Pinctada maxima oyster, often have a desirable secondary color of red, orange, pink or green.

• Akoya pearls, of the Akoya oyster, are the most traditional and have a lustrous white color.

Cassie Pence is a freelance writer based in Vail and she does marketing work for Karats.


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