Asian jew­ellery artist Cindy Chao fuses the tra­di­tional and the mod­ern to cre­ate beau­ti­ful one-of-a-kind con­tem­po­rary pieces for the ages

Thailand Tatler - - TATLER FOCUS -

Cindy Chao is the ac­claimed jew­ellery de­signer de­scribed by CNN as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary in the world of con­tem­po­rary high jew­ellery. Her unique style of sin­gu­lar, or­ganic and sculp­tural works have their DNA from her fam­ily her­itage. Grand­daugh­ter of an ar­chi­tect and daugh­ter of a sculp­tor, her artis­tic skills could be said to be in­nate. From her grand­fa­ther Chao learnt to look at the world in a three-di­men­sional way, ob­serv­ing through an­gles and shapes—a les­son that to­day forms the ba­sis of her creative process and cul­mi­nates in her dis­tinc­tive jew­ellery pieces. By ob­serv­ing her fa­ther, on the other hand, work­ing with heart and soul to trans­form his per­cep­tions into forms, she learnt the var­i­ous sculpt­ing tech­niques she would later ex­plore when de­vel­op­ing her own creative style.

CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel was es­tab­lished in 2004 with her de­sire to break bound­aries and re­de­fine high jew­ellery. She be­lieves that ev­ery piece should be a minia­ture work of art and her brand’s Black La­bel Mas­ter­pieces and White La­bel col­lec­tions are the ex­pres­sions of her savoir­faire as a sculp­tor and artist. Orig­i­nal, in­no­va­tive and tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing, only a lim­ited num­ber of th­ese tour de force pieces are cre­ated an­nu­ally.

Over the past 14 years, Chao’s mu­se­um­cal­i­bre creations have been highly sought af­ter by con­nois­seurs and col­lec­tors at the most pres­ti­gious auc­tions world­wide, in­clud­ing Christie’s and Sotheby’s. In ad­di­tion, they have been ex­hib­ited at mu­se­ums and in­vi­ta­tion-only events in New York, Dubai, Paris and Shang­hai. In 2007, she de­buted her sig­na­ture sculpted Four Sea­sons col­lec­tion at Christie’s New York fine jew­ellery auc­tion.

By 2010 Chao had be­come one of the first con­tem­po­rary jew­ellery artists to re­ceive the hon­our of hav­ing one of her creations, an iconic but­ter­fly, dis­played at the Smith­so­nian Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory. Show­cas­ing her jewel, the mu­seum said, “She en­sures that gen­er­a­tions to come may en­joy the colours, gems and crafts­man­ship of this time­less piece.” In 2013 her Burmese Ruby Rib­bon ring, fea­tured on the cover of an auc­tion cat­a­logue at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, was sold for US$ 3.84 mil­lion, set­ting a then record for an Asian con­tem­po­rary piece.

In 2016 Chao was in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in the 28th Paris Bi­en­nale des An­ti­quaires where the 2016 Black La­bel Mas­ter­pieces were re­vealed. Her par­tic­i­pa­tion at the highly re­garded event sig­ni­fied the brand’s swift rise to global recog­ni­tion. Ear­lier this year at Mas­ter­piece Lon­don, where CINDY CHAO was the only Asian jew­ellery brand on show among nearly 160 ex­hibitors, her Ruby Pe­ony brooch was hon­oured with the Out­stand­ing Ob­ject Award by the Art Fair’s award com­mit­tee, which praised it as an ex­am­ple of con­tem­po­rary crafts­man­ship and great de­sign. François Curiel, chair­man of Christie’s

Eu­rope and Asia, even re­gards Chao as one of the top jew­ellery de­sign­ers of the 21st cen­tury.

To­day only a few con­tem­po­rary jew­ellery brands em­ploy 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 jew­ellery piece. Gem­stones are care­fully ar­ranged on the wax model to cal­cu­late set­ting po­si­tions and then finely ad­justed to al­low each stone to 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 from which the metal base of the piece will be cast.

“I am al­ways as­ton­ished and in awe when­ever I see 18th cen­tury crafts­man­ship in jew­ellery. As an ar­ti­san in the 21st cen­tury util­is­ing this tra­di­tional craft, I feel hon­oured to be able to pre­serve such artistry and pass it on to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. I hope more jew­ellers will be able to un­der­stand and con­tinue this so­phis­ti­cated, del­i­cate craft, which cap­tures the real essence be­hind the jew­ellery,” Chao ex­plains.

Her savoir-faire is also ex­pressed in the high qual­ity of the pre­cious stones with which

her sin­gu­lar pieces are set. In ad­di­tion to the stones that make up the cen­ter­piece, all of the side stones, even to the small­est sized 0.5 mm di­a­monds, must be metic­u­lously se­lected. Three GIA cer­ti­fied ex­am­in­ers scru­ti­nise th­ese stones and only di­a­monds of the DEF colour­less grad­ing and VS clar­ity are used. The cut, grade and bril­liance are also cri­te­ria de­ter­min­ing whether a gem­stone makes it into a piece. So strict is the stan­dard that only 10 per cent of the white di­a­monds and 5 per cent of fancy-coloured di­a­monds will fea­ture in the fin­ished item.

Eech of CINDY CHAO's Art Jewels un­der­goes the process of wax sculpt­ing, sketch­ing, colour ar­range­ment, struc­tural en­gi­neer­ing and gem­stone se­lec­tion. All th­ese thor­ough and com­pli­cated steps lead to the last, most sig­nif­i­cant and time-con­sum­ing pro­ce­dure—gem set­ting. In the cre­ation of her Black La­bel Mas­ter­pieces 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. Th­ese ar­ti­sans work with mi­cro­scopes set at 25x mag­ni­fi­ca­tion and so pre­cise and de­mand­ing is the process that the crafts­men can only spend three hours a day on this task.

Thou­sands of hours are de­voted to this es­sen­tial step, 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 each piece. Hence each Black La­bel Mas­ter­piece is the fruition of al­most two years or 10,000 hours of ded­i­ca­tion from con­cep­tion to com­ple­tion.

Ac­co­lades for Chao’s ex­cep­tional mas­ter­pieces keep com­ing. Ear­lier this year when she un­veiled the brand’s an­nual col­lec­tion at Mas­ter­piece Lon­don, Philipp He­watJa­boor, chair­man of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, cited her work for us­ing tra­di­tional tech­niques and ma­te­ri­als of su­pe­rior qual­ity backed by in­tel­lec­tual in­tegrity and imag­i­na­tive de­sign—say­ing in essence that Chao’s pieces tran­scend their func­tion to be­come aes­thet­i­cally as­ton­ish­ing pieces of art.

As Chao her­self ex­plains, there is only one way to cre­ate true art, which is to face and over­come ob­sta­cles with per­se­ver­ance and courage. The re­sult will be beau­ti­fully mag­nif­i­cent pieces that de­fine op­u­lent aes­thet­ics.

Con­tact CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel at 50 Con­naught Road, Cen­tral, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2561 8298 or visit cindy­ for more in­for­ma­tion on both the Black La­bel Mas­ter­piece and While La­bel se­ries.

full bloom CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel's Ruby Pe­ony brooch earned Chao the cov­eted Out­stand­ing Ob­ject Award at Mas­ter­piece Lon­don this year

in­her­ited pas­sion (Left) Learn­ing from her ar­chi­tect grand­fa­ther and sculp­tor fa­ther, Cindy Chao makes good use of her up­bring­ing to un­der­take the creative process when she de­signs her art jewels; (Be­low) CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel's 2009 Black La­bel Mas­ter­piece I Royal But­ter­fly brooch, in­ducted by the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tute Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory into its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion

labour of love The pieces in the CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel Black La­bel Mas­ter­piece col­lec­tion, such as this Flower Bud brooch in emer­aldes and di­a­monds, take al­most two years or 10,000 hours of painstak­ing work by highly skilled mas­ter crafts­men to come to fruition. So de­tailed and de­mand­ing is the work that the ar­ti­sans can only spend three hours a day at their task

light touch CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel's crafts­men use an 18th cen­tury wax sculpt­ing tech­nique to cre­ate stun­ning pieces such as th­ese 2018 Black La­bel Mas­ter­piece XII & XV Emer­ald Feather brooches, which fea­ture over 180 carats of emer­alds

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