Pitango Trotoush—Topanga’s Gem

Jewelry maker Pitango Trotoush and his partner, Vahina Giocante, rescued their dog, Nabi, from a meat farm in South Korea. Photo by Claire Fordham

Pitango Trotoush was born and raised in Tel Aviv. After completing Israel’s compulsory military service thirty years ago, he started traveling the world “to achieve my highest potential.” 

First to New York then India for a few years, Nepal, South America, Central America and Europe. It wasn’t until Pitango moved to Topanga that he felt he had finally found home.

Pitango still travels the globe to look for gems to turn into jewelry.

“I make rings and pendants,” he said. “But I don’t consider myself a jeweler. I feel like I am creating temples. Temples of importance. They are talismans, objects of power that fit the person buying it.”

It was Pitango’s partner, Vahina Giocante, a French actress, writer, director and the face of L’Oreal, France for three years, who suggested the couple move to Topanga from Venice, LA where Giocante was writing a film script.

“Vahina said she needed some peace, quiet and privacy and wanted to live in Topanga. Of course, I do whatever Vahina wants me to do even though I hated the idea, thinking it would isolate us. What she needed is exactly what I didn’t need, but we moved here and I totally fell in love. The peace and tranquility here is second to none and, as a surfer, the fact that I am close to the ocean is wonderful. I love the point break in Topanga,” he said.

Pitango’s biggest passion is gems. His current favorite stone to work with is labradorite from Madagascar. He travels the globe searching for pieces and attends gem shows to buy the best he can find. He works mostly alone in his Topanga treehouse, but also with five other jewelers who help him meet demand for his art.

For Pitango, every ring has a purpose. “My job,” he said, “is to help people find the ring that best serves their purpose and speaks to them. I am a storyteller so I tell stories about the rings as my customers and I drink tea. They are power rings. It’s like making people familiar with a long lost energy.”

Pitango recalls that many years ago people dressed in silks. “Now clothes are mass produced and we have lost our individualism. I feel that deep inside of ourselves we want to feel we belong but we also want to feel special. My rings will still be here long after we’re gone.” 

Most of his clients are women of all ages but some men buy his pieces. “One of my regular customers is 86!” Fashion icon Ru Paul owns over fifty of Pitango’s rings. “And wears them! Ru Paul loving my rings since I was a street vendor in New York means a lot to me.” 

The rings are already made but he sometimes custom makes them for people. Pitango’s rings cost from $200. Pendants from $110 up to $2500.

Pitango and Giocante have been together for five years. When they first moved to Topanga, the couple lived in a yurt on Observation, but living without electricity and hot running water was too challenging. Pitango’s son, Ninja Leo, 13, is a regular visitor to their Topanga tree house, as is Giocante’s son, Nino, 18, who lives in Paris.

Nabi, the dog they saved from a meat farm in South Korea, completes their family.

Pitango said, “I didn’t want a dog. Vahina used to send me pictures of puppies all the time and I would say ‘no way.’ Then she sent me a picture of Nabi and I said, ‘yeah, she’s cute, but I still don’t want a dog.’ Vahina said, ‘That’s a shame because she’s about to be eaten.’”

Thanks to the Dove Project, an organization that rescues dogs from meat farms, Pitango and Giocante were able to collect Nabi from LAX a week after adopting her online. They just had to pay for Nabi’s vaccinations. The flight was free. “Every passenger from South Korea can bring in up to two dogs,” said Pitango. A volunteer brought Nabi to LA.

Nabi had already been named. The name means “butterfly” in Korean.

Pitango’s one condition for adopting Nabi was that she only eat vegan food.  Himself a vegan for many years, Pitango said, “As Nabi was being raised to be eaten, I felt it wouldn’t be right if another animal was killed to feed her. She’s the healthiest, strongest dog. She is basically protein. We feed her dry vegan dog food. Sometimes I cook for her but there is really great vegan dog food available. No need for supplements,” he said.

Tea also plays a big part in Pitango’s life. Pu-erh tea made from trees in China is a favorite. “They pick the tea, and only if it’s really good will they ferment it, sometimes for forty years. The trees take minerals from deep in the ground that we don’t have on the soil surface any more. It’s great for the immune system,” he said.

Pitango keeps thirty different teas. Some cost several hundred dollars for a cake of tea that weighs 14 ozs.

“There’s a ceremony involved,” says Pitango. “It’s not a tea bag but loose leaves put in a special red clay pot that comes from China.”

Pitango sells his rings and pendants at shows around the country, but most of his customers come to his Topanga treehouse to choose their ring, hear its story, meet Nabi the miracle dog, and drink tea. 

 

For information: www.pitangorings.com; (917) 921-5015; www.dove-project.org.

 

Claire Fordham
Claire Fordham

Fordham worked for the BBC, ITN and Sky News in the UK and wrote a weekly anecdotal column for Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, The Sun. She currently writes regularly for Huffington Post, The Malibu Times and the Messenger Mountain News. See "A Chat with Claire Fordham" on this website under Podcasts.

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