Pearl expert Koji Kawamoto returns to Karats in Vail Village, Dec. 23-27 |

Pearl expert Koji Kawamoto returns to Karats in Vail Village, Dec. 23-27

Daily staff report
Koji Kawamoto often consults with Vail buyers on designs for custom, pearl-centric jewelry to be made at the Karats gallery in Vail Village.
Courtesy Koji Kawamoto | Special to the Weekly |

If you go …

Who: Pearl expert and jeweler Koji Kawamoto.

When: Friday, Dec. 23, through Tuesday, Dec. 27; gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Karats Vail, 122 E. Meadow Drive, Vail Village.

Cost: Admission is free; pearls available for purchase.

More information: Visit

VAIL — Karats Vail is hosting renowned Japanese pearl expert Koji Kawamoto for five days, showcasing a wide selection of pearls and pearl-centric jewelry from around the world.

“I’m arriving before Christmas with many beautiful things, from strands of pearls to earrings, pendants, necklaces, and they all make wonderful Christmas gifts,” said Kawamoto, whose traveling trunk show regularly visits Karats on Meadow Drive in Vail Village. “It’s going to be a really good opportunity to get someone something really nice for Christmas.”

Kawamoto was born and raised in the Japanese prefecture, or region, of Mie, on the Pacific coast of the country’s main island, where the art and science of cultivating pearls from Akoya oysters began in the 19th century. He said the Christmas season is a “special time” in his country.

“Most people in Japan are Buddhists, but Christmas has really become a big event there. People exchange presents; there’s lots of nice Christmas lighting, Christmas trees,” he said. “We really enjoy it and celebrate it, not so much with family but with lovers, girlfriends and boyfriends. For us, it’s very romantic.”

And, if you’re a romantic, he said, pearls are the perfect Christmas present.

“Pearls are a really good way to pass your heart, or commit, to someone,” Kawamoto said.

Kawamoto is known for his special talent in what he calls “matchmaking,” or selecting the perfect pearl, or strand of pearls, for a particular wearer based on the color of his or her eyes, skin tone, even overall “atmosphere,” or energetic presence.

For this, he comes to Vail with a wide selection, including Japanese white Akoya pearls, known for their pinkish luster; Tahitian black, green, aubergine and blue South Sea pearls from French Polynesia; large white and silver South Sea pearls from Australia; golden South Sea pearls from the Philippines and Indonesia; and freshwater pearls from China, in shades of pink, white and copper.

“My pearls have such variety, if you’ve never seen them you wouldn’t believe it. It’s like a museum for pearls. And when you buy pearls, you have to see them and compare, so you can find the best matching color for yourself or someone else,” Kawamoto said. “When I put the right necklace on someone, it really pops. The necklace itself is already beautiful, but when the pearls meet somebody they look even more beautiful — and the woman looks more beautiful, too.”

The show at Karats offers another special opportunity, as well. Owner and renowned jewelry designer Dan Telleen, known for his custom creations, is on hand and ready to take your pearl purchase to the next level in settings of gold, silver or platinum.

“Dan is a great friend, as well as a great customer for me. He has really great relationships with his customers and makes beautiful jewelry pieces,” Kawamoto said. “He and I often will sit with a customer and choose a pearl for them, talk about a design, then he creates something wonderful; it’s a really nice collaboration.”

In addition to the show at Karats, Kawamoto is available privately by appointment through early January.

Support Local Journalism