Nat­u­ral Wonders

A stun­ning de­but at Master­piece Lon­don, on the back of lauded ap­pear­ances at Haute Cou­ture Week and the An­tiques Bi­en­nale in Paris, has ce­mented Cindy Chao’s leap from Asian star to global player in the world of exquisite art jew­ellery. Melissa Twigg repo

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style -

The Euro­pean sum­mer is filled with high glitz and glamour. But away from the su­pery­achts of St Tropez and the scar­let sun um­brel­las of Portofino, it is the jew­ellery fairs and fash­ion shows of July and Au­gust that re­ally daz­zle. And Cindy Chao has, un­sur­pris­ingly, taken Europe by storm with her exquisite di­a­mond and emer­ald-filled Black La­bel col­lec­tion.

First in the jew­ellery sea­son came Master­piece Lon­don, which ran from late June to early July. It was set in a vast mar­quee on the grounds of the Royal Hos­pi­tal Chelsea, one of the most beau­ti­ful build­ings in west Lon­don and the home of the iconic Chelsea Pen­sion­ers.

“I was thrilled to un­veil my 2018 Black La­bel Master­pieces at my brand’s de­but at Master­piece Lon­don,” says Chao. “In­spired by one of my trips to Bri­tish Columbia, Canada, last year, where I was fully im­mersed in na­ture’s end­less won­der, the new col­lec­tion will al­low col­lec­tors and con­nois­seurs to ex­pe­ri­ence the world through my eyes.”

What is par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able about the Master­piece fair is the seam­less way it bridges the gap between art, jew­ellery and fash­ion. And, as ever, this year it show­cased a few ex­tra­or­di­nary pieces of jew­ellery that drew gasps from the well-heeled crowd—none more so than Cindy Chao’s ruby Peony brooch, which was awarded the prize of Out­stand­ing Ob­ject by the Master­piece awards com­mit­tee.

As the only Asian high jew­ellery brand amid a sea of grand old Euro­pean houses, this was a pro­found ac­co­lade for Cindy Chao The Art Jewel—and an un­der­stand­able one the mo­ment you set eyes on the ob­ject it­self.

The Peony brooch is one of her White La­bel Master­pieces, which—like so many of Chao’s cre­ations—are in­spired by ar­chi­tec­ture, travel and na­ture. Chao sculpts or­ganic forms into her work to create a tan­gi­ble sense of move­ment in a price­less gem, thereby re­defin­ing our per­cep­tion of what high jew­ellery is.

Chao’s iconic Black La­bel Master­pieces in par­tic­u­lar com­bine the rarest of gem­stones with the most in­no­va­tive of de­sign. They are the ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sions of her savoir faire as a sculp­tor and artist. Orig­i­nal, in­no­va­tive and tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing, they are cre­ated in limited edi­tion, with Chao tak­ing more than 1,000 hours to com­plete each one.

Long known for her highly artis­tic ap­proach to jew­ellery de­sign as well as her re­fined crafts­man­ship, Chao is fi­nally bring­ing her FLO­RAL FAN­TASY Mys­tère de la nuit ear­rings in di­a­monds and sap­phires by Cindy Chao The Art Jewel

de­signs to Western cus­tomers. This seems fit­ting, as each 360-de­gree work of art is cre­ated us­ing the del­i­cate craft of 18th cen­tury wax mould­ing bor­rowed from Parisian jew­ellers, in­di­vid­u­ally sculpt­ing life into each of the brand’s pieces be­fore the set­ting of gem­stones.

Her ac­claimed peony sculp­ture en­cap­su­lates this aes­thetic. It re­flects light and colour from ev­ery an­gle, with not one of the six petals left un­touched by gems. Strong as steel, dy­namic, boldly beau­ti­ful and ul­tra­fem­i­nine, it is set with ru­bies on pur­ple-coloured ti­ta­nium. It is no sur­prise that the awards com­mit­tee de­scribed the Peony brooch as “an ex­am­ple of con­tem­po­rary crafts­man­ship and great de­sign.”

An­other stand­out is the del­i­cate Flower Bud brooch, which looks like a piece from an up­dated fairy tale. Fea­tur­ing emer­alds in faceted cuts and cabo­chons that are en­closed in a di­a­mond-drifted ti­ta­nium flo­ret, its depth and colour scheme are ut­terly mes­meris­ing.

The Master­piece fair is full of daz­zling ob­jects, but one piece that had guests plan­ning not only out­fits around it but en­tire rooms was Chao’s Co­ral ban­gle. An al­most El­iz­a­bethan piece, thanks to its head-turn­ing size and bold colour scheme, it fea­tures a 58-carat nat­u­ral sap­phire and a grad­u­at­ing ar­ray of gems. The bright hues of yel­low di­a­monds, emer­alds and sap­phires are de­signed to mimic the shim­mer­ing re­flec­tion of the sun from gen­tle waves. Mean­while, sharp ar­chi­tec­tural lines form a strik­ing por­trait of vi­brant and vig­or­ous corals. A few weeks af­ter Master­piece, Chao hopped on the Eurostar for what is ar­guably the most glam­orous few days of the Euro­pean sum­mer: Paris Haute Cou­ture Week. And this year proved par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for the de­signer, given her pieces were ex­hib­ited dur­ing the week. Paris has al­ways played an im­por­tant role in the evo­lu­tion of her brand. Cindy Chao The Art Jewel was founded in 2004 and her pieces were soon ex­hib­ited at mu­se­ums, auc­tions houses and pri­vate ex­hi­bi­tions around the world, in­clud­ing at the brand’s ex­clu­sive pri­vate show­room in Hong Kong. But it was 2016, when she was in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in the pres­ti­gious 28th Bi­en­nale des An­ti­quaires, or An­tiques Bi­en­nale, at the Grand Palais in Paris, that marked her real de­but on the world stage of jew­ellery. This sum­mer, her pieces re­turned to Paris for Cou­ture Week to take their right­ful place on the cat­walk. And those same jewels will, this Septem­ber, be ex­hib­ited in Hong Kong at her pri­vate show­room, en­sur­ing that her savoir faire and exquisite crafts­man­ship can be en­joyed by con­nois­seurs of beauty around the globe.

IN­SPIRED WORKS Clock­wise from top left: Peony brooch set with ru­bies and di­a­monds, from the Rose Col­lec­tion; 2018 Black La­bel Master­piece VII Flower Bud brooch with cabo­chon emer­ald drops, di­a­monds and tsa­vorites; 2018 Black La­bel Master­piece VI Mys­tère de la mer ban­gle with 58.21-carat cush­ion-cut sap­phire, all by Cindy Chao The Art Jewel

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