UCLA alumna Misa Hamamoto is proof that a change in vocation and a little risk can lead to a flourishing, new career. With her own jewelry line, Misa Jewelry, Hamamoto has found happiness by pursuing a dream that was almost lost to a profession in the financial industry.
Hamamoto said that her comfortable position in the jewelery industry did not come easily. It took years of hard work spent in classrooms and cubicles before celebrity clients such TV personality Giuliana Rancic from “E! News,” and actresses Ashley Tisdale and Vanessa Anne Hudgens wore her pieces.
“When I started to feel comfortable, I would say it was about almost two years into it,” Hamamoto said. “And then, of course, starting out anything in any business was very difficult.”
Once set on a career in the corporate world, Hamamoto studied economics at UCLA, which she said gave her a solid understanding of how to run her own business. Shortly after graduating, Hamamoto also received training through several internships and jobs in finance. She explained that her time at these positions taught her the foundation of business and money management skills which have helped her tremendously.
However, Hamamoto said she was never fully satisfied in finance. After taking the knowledge she gleaned from her financial internships and jobs experience and combining it with her artistic abilities, Hamamoto set her sights on developing her own jewelry line.
According to Hamamoto, Misa Jewelry is influenced by her island upbringing on Hawaii and in Micronesia, and by the different elements of nature that she has seen during her world travels. She became inspired to combine the colors and beauty that she witnessed at these locations with the modern lifestyle of Los Angeles.
“I use semi-precious stones like labradorite,” Hamamoto said. “It really reminds me of the ocean that I grew up with, so I tend to go after stones that remind me of the beaches that I went to or sunsets that I experienced.”
Labradorite is a mineral found in rock and is known for its natural sheen that refracts green, blue and yellow. Hamamoto also incorporates chalcedony, a light blue-colored stone, into many pieces of her jewelry so that they exude a coastal vibe.
Using the ancient method of lost-wax casting, Hamamato hand-sculpts all of her designs. This multistep process involves making an initial mold out of wax and then pouring molten metal into the mold. After the wax mold has melted away, the molten metal solidifies to produce a piece of jewelry. Her Azteca collection, made from vermeil, provides an example of the intricate details and complex designs that are made possible through lost-wax casting.
“If I am just sculpting away, I could finish a piece in maybe a couple of days,” Hamamoto said.
“But sometimes it will take me up to a week just so I can just perfect the design. I also like to wear the design right after I make it so that I can give it a seal of approval.”
Sofia Kaman, owner and designer of Kamofie & Company, which carries Misa Jewelry, said she is impressed with Misa Jewelry’s accessible price range and its union of nature and the style of the modern world.
“I think that’s a really good angle for where we are,” Kaman said. “We’re in Venice, so we have the beach and it’s just a nice fusion of style.”
Kea Asato, Hamamato’s childhood friend from Hawaii, said she is glad that Hamamoto is finally pursuing her dream.
“I think the reason why she is so successful … is that jewelry is really her calling,” Asato said. “She’s a more complete person because she’s doing what she loves and it’s very inspirational as her friend to see someone take that risk and follow their passion and to have it work out so wonderful for them.”