By Kimberly Horg | Photo by Manny Espinoza
Growing up in Istanbul, Kirkor Kocek was an Armenian working hard as a young boy to survive. After his father’s textile factory burned, Kocek and his three older brothers, born to his parents, Varuhi and Horen, went to work. This instilled strong family values and a sense of community at an early age.
When Kocek was 11, his principal asked the classroom, “Who would like to be a jeweler?” Kocek, without hesitation raised his hand and said, “I do.” Even at an early age, he knew what he wanted to do and that this was his calling. Working full-time at an early age in the market, Kocek learned the trade quickly. Creativity came naturally; crafting wooden go karts out of spare wood was a common pastime.
At 13, a gold synthetic Alexandrite ring was the first of many he designed. Kocek never forgot how he felt when he brought his mother to tears, and to this day, he continues to bring his customers to tears of joy with the beauty and thoughtfulness behind each design—not to mention the years of design and technique that personalizes each work of art.
In the 1970s, at 23, Kocek had an opportunity to travel to the United States and design jewelry with a friend in Beverly Hills. Three months later, he found himself on a road trip to Carmel. Upon arriving, Kocek felt at home. Carmel reminded him of the islands in Istanbul and part of Switzerland.
With only seven jewelers in Carmel, a wholesale jeweler tested his skill by asking him to make a ring out of a stick of gold. Completing the task in a little over two hours, he was hired on the spot.
After a couple of years’ experience, Kocek was well on his way to becoming a master jeweler and opened Kocek Jeweler, Inc. in Carmel. In his own words, “I came here to the United States for one reason. People can be anything they want to be.”
Remembering his mother’s emotional response to his jewelry, Kocek continues to personalize every piece that he creates. In recreating an emotional experience for all of his customers, he understands that his creations are keepsakes that will be passed down from generation to generation.
Presenting the finished product to customers is his favorite part of the job. Bette Davis, Kim Novak, Clint Eastwood, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen, Paul Anka, Bob Hope, Jimmy Doolittle, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and President Reagan, are just a few of the well-known clients he has served in Carmel. Presenting Pope John Paul II a piece at the Vatican is another lasting memory.
An active member of the The Rotary Club of Monterey for over 20 years, Kirkor Kocek has served on the Carmel Business Association and Chamber of Commerce. He was awarded the Business of the Year and the Green Ribbon Award for the Best Jeweler in Town. Kocek also belongs to The American Appraisal Association, The National Association of Jewelry Appraisers, The International Society of Appraisers, The Jeweler Board of Trade, and The California Jeweler Association, and he supports Kinship Center, Rancho Cielo, and The Boys and Girls Club.