A Doyenne’s Prequel
Firmly backed by one of the biggest names in jewellery appraisal, Diana Zhang is making history at the 2014 Biennale des Antiquaires
Diana Zhang is an indie fairytale in the world of haute joaillerie; in the ultra- prestigious art and antique fair’s 52- year history. Fleeting whispers of the first female Asian jeweller and maddening obscurity have only served to heighten the anticipation, charging the run- up to an event typically headlined by the big names with an underground current that’s rarely found in high jewellery. Diana isn’t intentionally trying to be subversive, and with a little digging it’s revealed that she will be presenting at the Martin Du Daffoy booth, invited at the behest of owner and CEO Cyrille de Foucaud.
“Before I came I had been told that few jewellery events could ever match the splendour of the Biennale,” says Zhang. “Now that I am here, invited by Martin du Daffoy, I am so incredibly honored to be able to participate along with legendary names of the industry.”
The two met at Baselworld last year, and after a tour of Diana’s Hong Kong workshop revealed the extent of the designer’s ingenuity, the expert French connoisseur was eager to share his discovery with the world.
A look at the pieces in question proves that Diana’s work is indeed highly collectable. Chinese influences are predictably strong, and the workmanship is astounding.
Francois Curiel, chairman of Christie’s Asia Pacific, says: “I’m very impressed. Diana’s collection is different from anything else in the market. It’s contemporary, classical, not too aggressive.”
Entitled One Year in China, the collection uses classic Chinese flora to represent
the seasons: Orchid Queen for spring; Lotus After The Rain for summer; Dancing Red Leaves for autumn; Plum Blossom for winter; King of the Winter and Year- Royal Bamboo. The Winter- Plum Blossom manchette is a particular favourite. It is set in gold and titanium with 10 unheated pigeon’s blood Burmese rubies and 7,726 diamonds, and is exceptionally versatile — its pieces can be detached to form a bangle, brooch and a ring that can be worn on one or two fingers.
“After I created it, I discovered that famous jewellery designer Georges Fouquet and artist Alphonse Mucha collaborated on a very special manchette for French stage legend Sarah Bernhardt, so I am a little proud to have come up with a similar idea.”
An artist at heart, Diana’s approach demands that craft yields to art, an ethos that’s obvious in the technical feats her jewels demonstrate to accommodate the sometimes unorthodox parts of the design. A self- taught designer who grew up in Guangzhou during China’s open- door period, her passion for beauty transcends boundaries and sometimes, commercial sense. She once refused to sell a piece because she couldn’t bear to part with it. Each stone is judiciously selected by her and completed pieces can take anywhere from 10 months to two years to produce.
“I pour my heart and soul into every piece. I handpick every gem, and will work and rework a piece until I see perfection. For me, jewels are like works of art, and symbols of love to be passed from one generation to another. Long after I am gone, my jewels will still speak for me.”
Winter-plum Blossom, King of The Winter
Clockwise from left: Olivia Zhen, Diana Zhang, Montserrat Perodom, Patricia Cheong; Diana Zhang with Cyrille Marion du Daffoy and Nora Sabrier; Summer– Lotus After The Rain ring; Layla Khosrovani wearing the WinterPlum Blossom, King of The Winter manchette