Luxury Society presents a round up of fine jewellery designers of Chinese heritage, featuring Wallace Chan, Anna Hu and Michelle Ong
Debate seems to be positively raging lately as to when China will develop its own luxury brands and if they will be launched from the hands of truly Chinese entrepreneurs or, as Jing Daily describes Hermès’ Shang Xia, a foreign controlled brand that employs a team of Chinese designers and craftsmen to imbue its products with a “Chinese soul”.
Whatever the model, the domestic launches of the past decade and the conversations being had by the media and executives, Chinese luxury brands will arrive in the not so distant future. 2011 was the year that China surpassed Japan as the world’s second biggest luxury economy. Unsurprisingly, the government, entrepreneurs and some pioneering consumers, are beginning to wonder why Chinese brands are not reaping more of the benefits.
One sector of luxury that the Chinese have long established its own brands is jewellery. A subsector of the greater luxury industry that is enjoying exponential growth in Mainland China, where sales in the first eight months of 2011 have expanded by nearly 50 per cent in terms of value, making it an opportune time for Chinese brands to launch collections best suited to Chinese tastes. Here we present a round up of eleven key fine jewellery designers from China.
Carnet is a fine art jeweller, currently designing by appointment only, established in 1985 by Hong Kong native Michelle Ong and business partner Avi Nagar. Each piece of jewellery is individually sketched and allocated gemstones, before being produced for each client in the Hong Kong atelier, open since 2003.
The designer, Ms. Ong, combines influences from both the east and the west, to produce designs that are a powerful statement of her creative output. She served an apprenticeship in the diamond industry and – with no formal training in design – began to create jewellery for herself because she could never find pieces she desired and wanted to wear.
Zhaoyi is self described as the ‘first luxury Chinese jade jewellery brand’, which has sought to break design conventions associated with Jade and incorporate karat gold, rare collared diamonds and precious stones into the design of jade jewellery.
Zhaoyi currently operates stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, with plans to open stores in New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo within the next five years. The brand also announced plans to launch a haute couture service in 2010, to cater to the growing market for customized jade products.
Kin Hing Lee Jewellery Co was established in 1992 in Hong Kong, as a one-stop jewellery company, designing, manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing to the global market. Founded by Hong Kong’s Hui family, led by businessman Hui Sin-Kin, the fine jewellery empire operates in Greater China (including Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong) with a supply chain based in both Guanzhou and Beijing.
The brand primarily manufactures jadeite jewellery – including jade accessories and objects d’art – also working with pearls, diamonds and gemstones. Its flagship store in Beijing spreads over 3,800 square meters, and includes the only display hall of jade jewellery in China.
Website: www.khljew.com (Chinese)
Qeelin was founded by entrepreneur Guillaume Brochard from France and designer Dennis Chan from Hong Kong, as the first “true French-Chinese brand.” The independent jeweller combines the aesthetics of the Chinese culture and the excellence of French craftsmanship, originally produced to order, with a vision to position Qeelin alongside the most exclusive jewellery brands in the world.
“Historically speaking, France is the birthplace of many luxury jewellery brands; therefore it was perfectly natural to base Qeelin in Paris at first. After launching the headquarters in France and in China we quickly opened jewellery boutiques in Hong Kong,” Mr. Brochard revealed. The brand now has stores in Hong Kong, Paris, Beijing, Taipei and London and has launched its own luxury timepiece line.
Rich Jade was launched in Taiwan, in response to a marketplace flooded with chemically processed jadeite, where accurate information on jade authenticity, supply and prices was scarce. Jane Liu, founder and CEO, wanted to restore the gemstone to its glory days, by championing knowledge and understanding of the stone and modernising its design, using the highest quality materials.
Rich Jade command access to a rich collection of the finest raw ore, which has led design teams to set new trends in terms of shape, colour and stone-setting techniques. They have successfully accented irregular cuts with a great variety of materials, including jadeite with red, green and lavender veins, adorned with tungsten, gold, diamonds and coloured stones to create multi-layered and geometric designs.
Larry Jewelry was established in 1967, with stores now situated in Hong Kong and Singapore. The jewellers are self-described ‘masters of design’, using the most innovative gem setting techniques. Only high-grade precious stones are used for jewellery creations, fetching the company numerous international and national awards for design and craftsmanship in Singapore and Hong Kong.
LAN Fine Jewellery was founded by talk show host and businesswoman – at times referred to as “China’s Oprah” – Yang Lan, alongside singer Celine Dion. The joint venture launched in Beijing, as designers and retailers of diamonds and precious metals jewellery, as well as fashion accessories and watches.
According to Jing Daily, in the two years since LAN’s official launch, the company has brought on more designers and striven to build a brand that can incorporate a distinct "Chinese-ness” without losing its international appeal. LAN most recently unveiled its newest location in the “jewellery district” of Beijing’s Shin Kong Plaza.
Born in Taiwan, Anna Hu began her career as a jewellery designer with an internship at Christie’s New York auction house, followed by jobs in the stone merchandising and jewellery production departments at Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston respectively.
Her designs incorporate elements of classical music as well as French haute joaillerie and Chinese fine art, seeking to bridge Eastern aesthetics and Western craftsmanship. Ms. Hu opened her first appointment-only boutique in Taiwan in 2008. In December 2008, Anna unveiled her exclusive boutique at The Plaza Retail Collection in New York’s legendary Plaza Hotel.
Established in 1991 and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in May 1997, Luk Fook was founded by a group of experienced jewellery specialists, with over 40 years of combined experience. The Group is principally engaged in the sourcing, designing, retailing and wholesaling of a variety of gold jewellery, gold ornaments, gem-set jewellery, gemstones and authentication services.
The group currently has a total of over 700 retail outlets in the PRC, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, the United States and Canada, with plans to open over 70 new stores in China alone in the coming years. In addition to opening fine jewellery stores in central cities, Luk Fook is planning to expand its presence to a secondary circle of cities such as Wuhan and Hangzhou.
Cindy Chao produces strictly limited collections of fine jewellery, featuring the highest quality diamonds and precious stones, presented in handmade black grand piano-finished wooden boxed that have been tailor made for the unique jewellery within.
After receiving her degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a certificate from the Gemology Institute of America, Ms. Chao left New York to launch her business in Taipei. Pieces from the Black Label collection merge the rarest fine gemstones from all over the world with the artist’s most extravagant and innovative design. The meticulous creation process can take up to two years, with production limited to just 36 per annum.
Hong Kong native, Wallace Chan, began his career as a sculptor, spending his youth mastering Eastern sculpture and the Western art of gemstones. In the mid 1980s he invented the “Wallace Cut” – a carved image using reflective techniques that resemble that of cameos, intaglios and gem faceting.
Throughout his career he has continued to work as both sculptor and jewellery designer, most notably launching a series of fine jewellery featuring titanium as the key element of the collection, at Baselworld in 2007. Mr. Chan continues to experiment with faceting techniques, lighting, colours, metallurgy and ergonomics and is widely regarded as one of the most innovative jewellers in China.
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