Cover Photo: Chiang Ming Shih for Tatler Hong Kong

Her attention to detail is astounding and her brand vision is bold. Cindy Chao is redefining not only the art of fine jewellery, but what it means to create a legacy

The world of fantasy has always found its most exquisite expression in jewellery. And no one creates a world of such precision and imagination, precious stone upon precious stone, capturing rivulets of water, the shimmering wings of a butterfly, and budding flowers, than the Hong Kong-based, Taiwan-born art jeweller, Cindy Chao.

Nature in its endless wonder is a constant source of inspiration for Chao. “Nature teaches human beings to be humble but also lets us know there exist possibilities beyond imagination in the world,” she says. For the creative force behind Cindy Chao The Art Jewel, it’s the possibilities that she finds particularly rewarding because “that is how nature has inspired some of the greatest artworks in human history.”

See also: The Metamorphosis Of Cindy Chao

Chao does more than render objects from nature. As her much-lauded Four Seasons and Rose collections spectacularly demonstrate, she captures a series of beautiful fleeting moments of nature that she says “properly mirror the change of my mindset as an artist and the growth of my brand. Frozen winter leaves, withering roses, growing branches, flowers in bloom... these are the classic themes praised by artists of antiquity but are now transformed into jewellery sculptures, each unique in its own way.” And embedded in each piece is the “vivid life and emotion” that she herself has experienced face-to-face with nature.

Like the detail inherent in her creations, her process is painstaking and ultimately exhilarating.

“Sometimes”, she explains, “I have a creative idea and would start carving on wax right away. If I am not near my wax sculpting tools, then I quickly draw forms and colours on my sketchbook, [which makes me] anxious to get back to my studio to sculpt the wax model.”

Sometimes, she says, she might “come across incredible gemstones that call out to me,” and be inspired to centre a piece around them. But wax sculpting is always at the core of her creative process, and the part she enjoys the most. It harkens back to her admiration for the masters of 18th-century jewellery. “For me, it is more than a way to create; it’s my inner meditation where I can roam free in my own world.

“It allows me to visualise the three-dimensional aspects of my works. From this base, the art jewels emerge. At this point, gemstones are temporarily fit on the wax model to accurately calculate the final setting positions. This is an incredibly intricate process given the organic nature and undulating lines of my sculpture. However, the wax technique is the only approach that guarantees perfection of the end result. I can feel it, touch it and view it from all angles.”

It is also a world that is grounded in classic techniques, but infused with a modern spirit. In recent years, Chao says, her style has turned towards “essentialism”, echoing Michelangelo, who, as a sculptor, described himself as freeing the soul of the marble.

See also: Master Of Her Fate: Jewellery Artist Cindy Chao On The Road To Success And Family Legacy

When she was younger, she acknowledged that her creative style was more of “addition”, because she wanted to show the world what she could do.

“Now as I have grown and matured, I have more conversations with myself and spend much more time contemplating how to reduce the unnecessary when I wax-sculpt to create a work of art that really touches people’s hearts. Only keeping the true essence renders my creations seemingly more effortless and more impactful.” 

The impact will be felt in the legacy she is nurturing. In November, she opened the third Cindy Chao The Art Jewel maison in the world in Shanghai, her biggest to date. It reflects her company’s globally focused vision, supported by a 100-strong team.

“Everyone working with me knows that we are creating a hundred-year-old brand. We are leaving a legacy and it’s only the first 15 years.” 

Find out more at Cindy Chao The Art Jewel

See also: The Most Influential Asian Jewellery Designers To Know Right Now

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