Cindy Chao at the Biennale des Antiquaires


Taiwanese jewelry designer Cindy Chao established Cindy Chao The Art Jewel in 2004, focusing primarily on one of a kind, hand-made pieces that have a strong 3-D sculptural dimension. She quickly started to attract attention of an in-the-know clientele who appreciate her 360-degree approach to gem stone setting as well as attention to craftsmanship, and in 2012 at Christie’s Geneva, her first piece at auction was a sapphire and diamond Transcendence butterfly brooch that raised $952,870, well above the $210,000‑260,000 estimate. This was followed in October 2013 when a large natural pigeon’s blood ruby and diamond ring she had designed sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $3.84 million, while in 2015, a butterfly-shaped brooch she designed with actress Sarah Jessica Parker to raise money for the New York City Ballet sold for $1.21 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. This year, the designer is participating for the first time in the Biennale des Antiquaires, only the second Asian jeweler to make the cut (Wallace Chan being the first). We talk to the elegant jewelry designer about her work and her planned showcase at the Biennale:

How would you describe your jewelry to someone who doesn't know your style?

My philosophy is to create fine jewelry as miniature pieces of art, sculpture, and architecture. Organic forms that are as vibrant as real-life is usually the first impression upon seeing my works. Their undulating shapes express movement. I want to convey life and emotions through each creation. To keep the curvature organic and lively we use stones of many different sizes and hues for pavé setting. For some art jewels, the complete circumference of the sculpture is set with gems, therefore the dimension of each stone is carefully measured and placed according to its characteristics. Each art jewel, is designed to be three-dimensional, with light and color from every angle and curve, no surface is left untouched by gems. They are to be admired from 360 degrees: the back is always as exquisite as the front.

I think vitality, in any form, is the true essence of my works, and the focal point of the pieces I will be presenting at the Biennale.

The butterfly has been a recurring motif in your creation?

A butterfly’s lifespan is fleeting yet pure, undergoing several transformations in a short period of time. This metamorphosis is one I have undergone as an artist, transforming and pushing myself to create and share something pure and beautiful, pushing limits to give life to something even more spectacular than the last creation. I have given life to a singular butterfly each year since 2008.

How many pieces are you planning on bringing to the Biennale?

Since it is our first public exhibition I feel it is important to highlight our signature pieces from the past years, some within our existing collections and some loaned back from our clients, as well as brand new 2016 Black Label Masterpieces so that everyone who visits can experience the evolution of the brand.

What can you tell us about some of the new pieces that you will be presenting?

I would like to keep some mystery until the Biennale, but what I can say is that there will be a necklace around a winter theme — a recurring and ever-evolving theme from my Four Seasons collection. In portraying frosty winter foliage, I choose the path of refinement and lifelike realism for my creation. The Winter Leaves necklace comprises more than 240 carats of diamonds set in titanium which is a fifth of the weight of gold. It is a very modern material used to reduce weight, but technically very hard to craft due to it being one of the strongest metals in the world. Resting lightly on the neckline, the curves, undulations, and layering arrangement of the winter leaves on the necklace highlights their perfect shapes, and natural, organic appeal that are important hallmarks of my work.

Can you talk about the design of your stand?

I aim to create an environment and setting that provides a new, sensual way for appreciating jewelry pieces. I am working with Grimanesa Amoros, a lighting artist and a wonderful friend, to create the interior design. Grimanesa and I worked together to conceive a new and unique sensation when viewing jewelry pieces, a cosmos where the nature-like, curvaceous space embraces the light and the jewelry, and in turn the light brought forth the life-force embedded within each gemstone of each art jewel.

Tell me about the craftsmanship involved with your Black Label pieces

Each piece takes more than 10,000 hours from creation to completion, and I am involved in the all steps, from creative concept, wax sculpture, discussing with the European craftsmen, to final gem-setting. I have to physically be there in the ateliers to touch and feel the works, because they embody my emotion, my vision, and they have to be me.

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