Asian high jewellery designer CINDY CHAO uses organic architecture and sculptural forms to create extraordinary pieces of wearable art
motivated by a desire to break boundaries and redefine high jewellery, Asian jewellery designer Cindy Chao launched her eponymous brand, CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel. She believes that every piece of fine jewellery should be a miniature work of art. Distinctly organic, sculptural and architectural, the brand’s Black Label Masterpieces and the White Label Collection are expressions of Cindy’s savoir-faire as a sculptor and artist. Original, innovative and technically challenging, only a limited number of these one-of-a-kind masterpieces are created annually, which makes possessing one even more extraordinary.
Over the last 14 years, Cindy Chao’s creations have been highly sought after by international art and jewellery collectors, connoisseurs and royals, and have frequently become the highlights of the world’s most prestigious auctions and exhibitions. In 2007, Cindy debuted her signature sculpted Four Seasons collection at the Christie’s New York Fine Jewellery Auction. In 2013, her Burmese Ruby Ribbon Ring, featured on Sotheby’s Hong Kong catalogue cover page, was sold for US$ 384 million, setting the record for an Asian contemporary art jewel.
In 2010, Cindy became one of the first contemporary jewellery artists to receive the honour of having one of her creations, an iconic butterfly
called “Royal Butterfly”, inducted into the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The museum remarked at the induction ceremony, “Displaying her jewel ensures that generations to come may enjoy the colours, gems and craftsmanship of this timeless piece.”
In 2016, CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel was invited to participate in the 28th Paris Biennale des Antiquaires, where the 2016 Black Label Masterpieces were unveiled. The highly-regarded Biennale signified the brand’s swift rise to global recognition.
Earlier this year at Masterpiece London, where Cindy Chao was the only Asian jewellery brand, her Peony Brooch – selected from nearly 10,000 exhibits – was honoured with the prestigious “Outstanding Object Award” by the art fair’s award committee, who described it as “an example of contemporary craftsmanship and great design”. The Chairman of Christie’s Europe and Asia, François Curiel, even regards Cindy Chao as one of the top jewellery designers of the 21st century.
Granddaughter of an architect and daughter of a sculptor, Cindy had an upbringing that was immersed in an extraordinary and vibrant creative environment. Under their guidance, Cindy learnt to combine her threedimensional vision to the world with sculpting techniques. This in turn prompted her to shape her own creative desire and drive to be bold and brave with her creations.
CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel is one of the very few contemporary jewellery brands to adopt the 18th century wax sculpting technique. This historic approach makes it possible to conceive a three-dimensional wax model in 1-to-1 scale to the final art jewel. Gemstones are then carefully arranged on the wax model for calculating the setting positions, so as to let every piece of gemstone to be set and sparkle with the greatest fire on the richly undulated and curved three-dimensional structure. This is a process instrumental in guaranteeing that the final work will be a miniature jewelled sculpture. Once completed, the wax sculpture is further processed to make the mould with which the metal base of the jewellery piece will be cast.
Cindy’s savoir-faire is also expressed in the high quality of the precious stones with which the art jewels are set. In addition to the centerpiece, all the side stones to the smallest 0.5 mm diamonds that are set on a jewellery piece must be selected meticulously. Three Gia-certified examiners scrutinize each stone. Only diamonds of the DEF colourless grading and VS (Very Slightly Included) clarity can be selected. The cut, grade and brilliance are also criteria that determine whether a gemstone would be used. So strict is the standard that only 10 percent of the diamonds and 5 percent of fancy-coloured diamonds will feature in the finished jewel.
Every piece of Cindy Chao’s art jewellery undergoes the process of wax sculpting, sketching, colour arrangement, structural engineering and gemstone selection. All these
“True art can break all ethnic, linguistic and cultural boundaries” Cindy Chao
thorough and complicated steps lead to the last, most significant and time-consuming procedure – gem-setting. Cindy Chao works in collaboration with a team of European master craftsmen, each with over 15 years of experience in high jewellery and titanium gem-setting, on the creation of the Black label Masterpieces. They have to work with 25x magnification microscopes to process the gemsetting task.
So precise and demanding is the work that craftsmen can only spend three hours a day on this
task, while facing only a 20 percent success rate. Thousands of hours are devoted to this essential step, as Cindy works closely with her team of European master craftsmen, fine-tuning the angle at which each gem is set, considering the texture, colours, brilliance and reflection so as to enhance the silhouette and undulating layers of her art jewels. Each Black Label Masterpiece is the fruition of two years or ten thousand hours of dedication, from conception to completion.
Since the launch, CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel has demonstrated its potential by constantly trailblazing in fields of creativity, craftmanship and spirit. On this foundation, it is Cindy’s vision to continue to build the brand based on its Asian heritage, leading the world’s modern jewellery design.
“Creation is a dialogue with self that is doomed to be a lonely pathway. However, this is the one and only way towards true art”