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Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) — He fell into the jewelry industry 38 years ago almost by accident but Labi Kapo is today a master goldsmith whose dazzling hand-crafted creations cost thousands of dollars.
His professional journey started in 1976 when, fresh out of school, Kapo entered a London jewelry store to pay the last installment for a watch he’d bought. But whilst there, the shop’s owners asked him whether he’d like to work for them for a couple of weeks. The young man agreed and has never looked back ever since.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Kapo was raised in London where he also perfected his craft by working at some of the UK capital’s finest jewelry stores. After years of learning from his mentors, Kapo branched out and started creating his own pieces.
Jeweler’s career-changing moment
Throughout the years, Kapo made several trips to various African countries, including Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, to learn more about the industry. “Africa has been blessed, truly blessed, with abundance of all the raw materials in which to thrive for the jewelry industry,” says Kapo.
Eventually he decided to start his own business back in the continent — In 2002, Kapo opened his own line, Akapo Jewels, in South Africa. Nestled in the classy Hyde Park suburb in Johannesburg, Kapo has spent the last decade designing and creating intricate pieces of jewelry for his elite clientele across the globe, including customized handcrafted pieces for some of the top auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
When he’s not designing unique pieces, Kapo spends much of his time teaching local youth the knowledge he has gleaned throughout the years as part of his efforts to help locals benefit from their land’s valuable resources. Apart from teaching platinum manufacturing at the University of Johannesburg, he’s also set up a business and training facility at his workspace.
“I’m one of those craftsmen who believe that when I’m teaching you, I’m teaching you to be better than me,” he says. “It’s pointless to have all this information in my head. I need to transfer it to the next generation. They are the future so this is what my plan is and I believe I’m going in the right direction.”
Watch the video below to explore the rest of Kapo’s work.
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