Inside Satomi Kawakita's Diamond-Setting Studio

We visited Satomi Kawakita at her sunny Union Square studio to see how her delicate diamond baubles are produced.

12 photos
Catherine Blair Pfander
Catherine Blair Pfander
Trends will come and go, but like the old cliche, diamonds are forever. Known for her delicate, organic-looking diamond baubles, we were surprised to learn that jeweler Satomi Kawakita originally trained as a glass-blower in her native Japan.
Catherine Blair Pfander
In fact, it was glass blowing that gave Kawakita a reason to come to the U.S. in the first place, encouraged by her teacher to study her craft abroad. "I was 21 at the time, and even though I couldn't speak English at all, I said 'Yeah, that sounds good to me.'"
Catherine Blair Pfander
Later, when her glass-blowing studio abruptly closed its doors, Satomi found herself contemplating new career paths. "I wanted to be realistic. I wanted a job that would make me happy, and also provide a living."A six-month program at the Studio Jewelers school in midtown convinced her that jewelry-making was the perfect fit. "I really wanted a job in the field," she laughs. "Somewhere, anywhere." Here, a look at Satomi's finished diamond rings, the most popular of which are the unusual hexagon shapes.
Eventually, Satomi landed a jewelry-making gig in the diamond district making commercial designs in brass, and eventually working with precious metals. "They didn't even ask for my resume," she jokes. In her spare time, she experimented with her own designs."I'm not sure where they come from," says Satomi. "I've always been really interested in textures. When I started making my own pieces, I'd never seen anything that looked like this." Here, a sketch for a simple platinum band.
Catherine Blair Pfander
Now working in her own studio off of Union Square, Satomi fashions each of her pieces entirely by hand. Here, a design for a textured diamond engagement ring with a milgrain border.
Catherine Blair Pfander
"I'm a craftperson," Satomi says definitively. "I don't think of myself as an artist. I like working with my hands." Indeed, each of her pieces requires a tremendous amount of effort to complete, starting with the hand-carved wax molds for each band, earring or pendant.
Catherine Blair Pfander
A look inside a drawer stocked with custom-made molds, each baring a simple illustration of what's inside.
Catherine Blair Pfander
The actual diamond-setting process, we discovered, is less about complex machinery than precise hand-work. Look closely at this silver tray: each miniscule, silvery fleck is actually a tiny diamond.
Catherine Blair Pfander
After opening up the setting holes in delicate pieces of gold, Satomi uses a small wax stick to pick up each individual diamond before carefully placing it. Magnifying goggles are often necessary to get the placement exactly right.
Catherine Blair Pfander
A look at the various drill-bits necessary for Satomi's elegant diamond settings. "The most satisfying thing, for me, is seeing my customers' happy faces," Satomi reflects. "People come to the studio to see the designs, and tell me their stories, and I tell them my story. For me, there's no job that could be better than that."
Catherine Blair Pfander
One of our favorite aspects of Satomi's rings (which, she admits, are her favorite to make) is their "stack-ability." "I don't wear rings while I'm working, but these I always wear in the same combinations, and on the same fingers." To see more of Satomi's designs go to
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