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Pearl specialist returns to Karats in Vail Village

Daily staff report
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The white Akoya pearl is widely believed to symbolize purity and new beginnings. Gold pearls are thought to signify prosperity and success, pink represent health and generosity and green stand for balance and justice.
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If you go ...

What: Pearls for spring show.

Where: Karats of Vail, Vail Village.

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday through Sunday.

More information: Call 970-476-4760.

VAIL — As the weather gets increasingly warmer and the earth rapidly commences its thaw, spring is unmistakably in the air, reminding us of new beginnings. There is no better way to signify such an occasion than a display of pearls.

The white Akoya pearl is widely believed to symbolize purity and new beginnings while many other shades have meanings all of their own. Some early Asian civilizations believed that black pearls were a symbol of wisdom. Gold pearls are thought to signify prosperity and success; pink represent health and generosity; and green stand for balance and justice. Who knew that pearls came in such a rainbow?

One person well aware of this reality is pearl specialist Koji Kawamoto, who collects pearls of every color from all over the world.



Kawamoto, who hails from Mie Prefecture, Japan, the place where the process of culturing pearls was first discovered, is conducting a free spring show at Karats of Vail this weekend, with a strand of pearls to match every possible shade of any earthly creation.

‘IT’S LIKE A MUSEUM’

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“There are so many types of pearls,” Kawamoto said, adding that his display in Vail will feature Akoya pearls from Japan, White South Sea pearls from Australia, Black Pearls from French Polynesia, Golden South Sea Pearls from the Philippines and Indonesia and Freshwater Pearls from China.

“It’s like a museum,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable beauty of nature. Culturing pearls is such a fascinating and very difficult process.”

It is true that in nature pearls develop in clams and oysters, but finding them in their natural place on the ocean floor would take opening up a whole lot of shells and would yield a very minimal harvest. Thus, humans have their own supply of mollusks (clams, mussels and oysters) and have honed in on the science of the development. Still, in the end, each pearl’s incredible color and luster is dependent upon the animal it grows inside of.



The phenomenon of pearl growth in nature is due to an irritant — such as a piece of sand — getting lodged into the mollusk’s soft tissue. The creature’s defense mechanism is a secretion of coating to cover the irritant. After many layers of coating, the surface becomes smooth, hard and dense. Thus, a pearl is born. The only difference with cultured pearls is that the insertion of the irritant is no accident — only shells proven to produce beautifully colored pearls are used and the irritant inserted is a shell bead nucleus more prone to result in a predictably shaped pearl.

Kawamoto prides himself on his ability to match a strand or pair of pearls perfectly with each person who wears them.

“It depends on your overall atmosphere, the color of your hair, eyes and skin tone,” he said. “Pearls have such a huge variety of color. I promise there is at least one for everybody.”

It’s remarkable how Kawamoto can find a match that illuminates a skin color one might otherwise think of as sickly dull or how a black pearl necklace can bring out the greens and blues in a pair of eyes that on their own might look completely gray or colorless.

“If blue or green colored pearls match your eye color, you can complement each other. Not only do the color of your eyes pop, but the color of the pearls pop,” Kawamoto said. “I am bringing all kinds, so people can compare and understand why specific ones are the perfect match for them.”


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