A Conversation with Michael Hakimian, CEO of Yoko London
One of the world’s leading luxury jewellery brands, synonymous with exceptional pearls, Yoko London crafts jewellery that makes every pearl lover’s heart flutter. From elegant, fashion-forward, wearable pieces to opulent creations that are stunningly sumptuous, every jewellery piece crafted by the brand is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of pearls.
Yoko London is a family-owned jewellery brand that has seen three generations of pearl connoisseurs and experts at its helm. Needless to say, at Yoko London only the finest pearls pass muster. From Freshwater to Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian, each pearl is carefully hand selected. Set into jewellery pieces that are skilfully handcrafted at the brand’s London workshop, the pearls at Yoko London are radiantly lustrous, round and blemish-free… in a word, perfect.
Michael Hakimian is the CEO of Yoko London. But that is not his only connection to the brand. It was Michael’s father who established Yoko London in 1973. Michael joined the business straight out of university and has stayed with it over the years. In a way, not only has Michael seen the business grow but he has helped it evolve into a luxury jewellery brand that is renowned for its exquisite pearls and outstanding jewellery. I recently got an opportunity to interview Michael where I asked him about Yoko London and the brand’s uncompromising standards for high quality pearls, the brand’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility and what trends we can expect to see in pearl jewellery for the rest of this year.
What, in your opinion, makes Yoko London the world’s leading luxury pearl jeweller and what sets it apart from other fine pearl jewellery brands?
Yoko London is a family run business that was established in London in 1973 by my father. We have almost 50 years of experience in the pearl industry, with three generations of our family having nurtured and developed our coveted brand. As a family run business, we take a personal approach to each of our clients. We work exclusively with thirteen pearl farms from around the globe to secure the finest pearls available, looking specifically for high lustre and pearls in exceptional sizes and colours. Our designs range from entry level, fashion forward designs to one-of-a-kind masterpieces. The sheer range of high quality, unique pearl jewellery we have available, coupled with our expertise is what sets us apart.
Your family established Yoko London in 1973. What was, and is, about pearls that makes them the central gem of all your jewellery pieces?
Our family has a love affair with pearls that has lasted three generations. Pearls are eternally elegant and glamourous – they have been the gem of choice for famous women and royalty generation after generation. They have an understated glamour which allows them to be suitable for a variety of occasions and are a true gift of nature. Whilst with cultured pearls man initiates the culturing process, we do not control what pearl we receive at the end – this is entirely due to nature and adds to the wonder surrounding this beautiful gem.
Yoko London jewellery pieces showcase beautiful pearls, from Freshwater and Akoya to Tahitian and South Sea pearls. How do you source these different pearls and what qualities are you looking for in them?
We work exclusively with thirteen pearl farms from around the globe. We use only the finest quality pearls in Yoko London jewellery; we look for high lustre, clean surfaces and exceptional sizes – the largest size in our inventory is a magnificent 20.4mm South Sea pearl. We also are excited by beautiful natural colours ranging from deep golds to rich purples.
Do the jewellery pieces at Yoko London start with a pearl, with a design or with what is currently trending? Or are there any special sources of jewellery design inspiration at Yoko London that you keep going back to?
Each of our pieces celebrates the individual characteristics of every pearl. With each design we try to highlight the most beautiful parts of the pearl. In our smaller, everyday designs we use dainty, high quality Akoya and Freshwater pearls. These smaller pearls allow us to be more creative with the placement of the pearls in the design and on a practical level are more comfortable to wear all day every day. When we work with large, rare pearls often the designs are simpler because the uniqueness of the pearls we are working with need very little embellishment to shine.
Almost all of Yoko London’s jewellery pieces feature round pearls. What makes round pearls such an important part of Yoko London’s design aesthetic?
We find that this shape of pearls is most desired amongst our clients. In terms of design aesthetic, their spherical shape allows us to create balance, flow and symmetry in a piece of jewellery. However, we do utilise baroque and drop shaped pearls in designs that warrant a more uniquely shaped pearl. All our pearls are sorted, graded and matched by hand by our highly skilled pearl experts in our London based headquarters. When selecting pearls for a piece our team our meticulous ensuring all the pearls are perfectly matched in quality, lustre and colour.
Let’s talk about Yoko London’s Sleek Collection which recently won Professional Jeweller’s Pearl Collection of the Year award. How did this collection come about and what makes it different from your earlier jewellery collections?
We were thrilled that our Sleek Collection won this award. During the first year of the pandemic, we found many of our clients were looking for glamourous jewellery, that is comfortable to wear day to night, suiting their more casual daily style. We already had launched our bestselling Trend Collection which featured stylish every day jewellery using high quality Freshwater pearls. With Sleek, we wanted to create another jewellery collection for everyday wear that could sit one level above Trend. In Sleek, we have used very small, very high quality Akoya pearls alongside diamonds in unique designs. Due to the popularity of the Sleek collection, we have recently launched ‘Sleek Blush’ which utilises high quality pink Freshwater pearls within the best-selling designs.
Apart from your fine and high jewellery collections, Yoko London also offers bespoke jewellery services. What does that entail?
All our pearls are hand selected and set in our London head office. Therefore, we can offer a great degree of flexibility in terms of bespoke jewellery, as most bespoke work or adjustments can be undertaken in our head office. We offer design services allowing us to create completely bespoke pieces for a client. Our team will work closely with them keeping them informed with images and information throughout the design service. Sometimes, bespoke services involve making adjustments to existing jewellery. For instance, changing the colour of the pearl or shortening or lengthening a piece.
As the world is slowly emerging from pandemic lockdowns, what changes have you seen in the jewellery world and how have they impacted Yoko London?
There is a palpable excitement globally to get back to life as normal. During the first summer of the pandemic, we launched our own e-commerce site allowing customers to purchase our products online globally. We have beautiful imagery of our products at various angles, including shots on a model to make it as easy as possible for our customers to have the confidence to purchase online. We are also available through global sites like Farfetch. The biggest change we saw was how many more customers had the confidence to purchase our fine jewellery online.
At Yoko London, you have made sustainability and social responsibility part of your overall Corporate Responsibility. Would you like to elaborate on this?
Sustainability and social responsibility is a key focus for us at the moment and we are currently working on a few crucial projects in this area which we will announce in due course. In April 2021 we achieved the milestone of using over 50% recycled gold content in our jewellery. We source our precious metals from responsible suppliers who have been audited by organisations such as the Responsible Mining Initiative and London Bullion Market Association. This commitment will not only minimise waste, but will also reduce our CO2 emissions. We are working hard to increase this percentage and we aim to be using 100% recycled gold in the near future.
Over the past 49 years, we have actively chosen to partner with some of the most trusted, environmentally aware and sustainable pearl farmers in the industry. Our close partnership with our suppliers means that we can trace the vast majority of our supply chain. We also encourage our customers to redesign their unused pearl jewellery with us, giving their pieces a new lease of life and minimising waste. This service is offered in our London headquarters.
What pearl jewellery trends are you expecting in 2022?
We have just launched a brand-new collection called Eclipse. This beautiful collection features huggie hoop earrings which look perfect worn alone or stacked up across multiple ear piercings. It also features stacking rings which can be worn alone or stacked up together. In this collection we use high quality white Akoya pearls and pink Freshwater pearls with diamonds. This collection is the perfect embodiment of the stacking trend.
Thank you so much Mr. Hakimian for taking time out of your busy day and answering my questions.
Featured Image: ‘Regency’ Necklace with luminous pearls and brilliant-cut diamonds, Yoko London