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Iconic — Magnificent Jewels by acclaimed contemporary Asian designers

Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction on 30 May in Hong Kong brings together masterpieces created by world-renowned jewellery designers. Here, Cindy Chao, Edmond Chin and Michelle Ong discuss their work and inspirations

Cindy Chao

Coming from an artistic family, Cindy fills her works with architectural and sculptural elements, creating exceptional three-dimensional designs
Coming from an artistic family, Cindy fills her works with architectural and sculptural elements, creating exceptional three-dimensional designs

Cindy Chao was born into an artistic family — her grandfather is a renowned Taiwanese temple architect and her father is a sculptor. It was her mother, however, who encouraged her to become a jewellery designer.

‘My father passed on to me the ability to sculpt pieces with my hands, while my grandfather passed on his architectural perspective,' explains Chao. ‘This allows me to use three-dimensional perspective to view pieces as miniature sculptures and architecture.’

For Chao, travel, architecture and culture are a constant source of inspiration. ‘During the creative process, I make sure all the individual details will present the jewellery as a piece of art. I do not rush to complete a piece.’

Rather than sketching her designs, she prefers a hand-sculpted wax mould that allows her to explore her design freely and infuse it with life and energy. This technique ensures that her creations are flexible and free-flowing.

Her feather-inspired, unique coloured diamond and diamond brooch, a highlight of the Spring Sale, is encrusted with 1,000 sparkling diamonds that were meticulously selected from 6,000 stones. Equally stunning are the ‘Snow Peas’ ear pendants showcasing two majestic Colombian emeralds of 29.49 and 26.81 carats respectively.

Edmond Chin

Edmond Chin’s creative process begins with observing the gemstones, from which point he strives to marry tradition, modernity and avant-garde style

Edmond Chin’s creative process begins with observing the gemstones, from which point he strives to marry tradition, modernity and avant-garde style

Edmond Chin remembers accompanying his father to jewellery stores to pick out exquisite pieces for his mother. ‘I think I have always been destined to be a jewellery designer,’ he confesses.

Chin always includes galleries and museums in his itinerary when travelling. 'Art is an inspiration,’ he explains. ‘You live with art, like the colour balance of a painting or subtle details about decorative pattern. All these things can inform my own design work.’

The jeweller, who is known for mixing different stones in his collections, says that the creative process begins with looking carefully at the gemstone. ‘Certain stones look better floating in the air; certain stones look better on the skin,’ he says. ‘Certain stones look better mounted in different ways or with other stones of different colours — it's almost like a painting, but slightly more complicated.’

Chin finds two types of gemstones particularly captivating. ‘One has a very cold beauty. It is beautiful in many ways, no matter who is wearing it,’ he says. ‘The other kind has a lot of personality. It looks different every day and is absolutely changeable.’

The designer’s creations fuse tradition, modernity and the avant garde. His experience of collecting ancient jewellery from Southeast Asia also serves as a source of inspiration. ‘Being a collector, I realised that designing could be really free and full of possibilities. It taught me that jewellery doesn’t have to be only one thing; you have to think outside of the box.’

This season, Chin presents three spectacular pieces that embody his distinctive style, including a pair of ruby and diamond ear pendants, a 3.37 carat Fancy Intense Blue diamond ring, as well as the greatly anticipated highlight, a magnificent Colombian emerald and diamond ‘Palmette’ necklace, set with 11 perfectly matched natural emeralds — unprecedented in the auction market.

Michelle Ong

Michelle Ong says Carnet is for confident, beautiful and memorable women
Michelle Ong says Carnet is for confident, beautiful and memorable women

Michelle Ong returned to Hong Kong after graduating in Canada, and became a jewellery apprentice at the invitation of a friend. ‘That’s how I learned about the properties and colours of gemstones,’ she says. ‘I started designing jewellery for myself because I couldn't find what I wanted, and because friends started to ask me to design for them. Here we are more than 25 years later.

'Once I have a vision for my piece, I often play with settings and different gemstones to make it come to life,’ she explains.

For Michelle Ong, inspiration can come at any time. ‘I might see a fabulous cloud in the sky and recreate it in a diamond brooch, or a beautiful piece of blue and white porcelain, and restate it in shades of blue sapphires for a special cuff,’ she says. She reveals that she keeps a notebook by her bed so that she can write down the ideas that wake her up in the night — a practice that might explain why the name of her jewellery label is Carnet, the French word for ‘notebook’.

Carnet, she explains, is for confident, beautiful and memorable women. ‘I design my jewellery to both mirror and enhance my clients’ confidence and personal aesthetic,’ she says. ‘I often focus on the fantasy of a design, reinterpreting nature and a variety of forms in my pieces.’

The Spring Sale in Hong Kong will feature a unique multi-gem necklace by Michelle Ong, a coloured diamond and diamond brooch, and a 41.34 carat Fancy Brownish Yellow diamond ring.

The  Iconic section of the sale also features pieces by Adrian Cheng. All the pieces in the  Iconic section are displayed below.