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
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