To mark Carnet’s 20th anniversary, founder and designer Michelle Ong enlists six of her closest confidants to celebrate the spectacular creations of the home-grown high jewellery house. We discover some of the stories behind the splendour

Michelle Ong’s magnificent creations for Hong Kong-based Carnet have adorned the likes of Kate Winslet, Wendi Murdoch and, most recently, the ever-regal Michelle Yeoh and Lisa Lu in the box-office hit Crazy Rich Asians. But to its director, creative head and ardent philanthropist (Michelle founded the First Initiative Foundation in 2010), Carnet’s success can be attributed more to its legion of fans closer to home.

What began two decades ago as a personal passion project—Michelle had wanted to craft jewellery that reflected “themes dear to my heart, like nature, Chinese motifs and lyricism”—has cemented itself among the world’s best high jewellers, where it is known for its masterful craftsmanship and East-meets-West sensibility. Many of its pieces have long enjoyed pride of place among the collections of the city’s most seasoned gem connoisseurs.

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To mark the brand’s 20th anniversary, Michelle gathered six of its most ardent supporters—Pansy Ho, Carina Lau, Michelle Ma-Chan, Claudine Ying, and her own daughters, Amanda and Jennifer Cheung—to showcase their most treasured Carnet creations. It is not hard to find plenty in common between these women and the jewellery: bold, confident yet feminine, all sharing the avant-garde flair and sophisticated panache that’s central to Michelle’s pieces.

Also marking the milestone is the publication by Thames and Hudson of the high jeweller’s new coffee table book, Carnet by Michelle Ong. A lush visual journey through the house’s iconic signature designs and the inspirations behind them, it will be launched in Hong Kong and worldwide before the end of the year, with all proceeds benefiting the First Initiative Foundation.

“I think time goes quickly when you do something you love,” says Michelle, reflecting on Carnet’s two decades of success. “I’m especially touched by the unfailing support for Carnet by my dear friends and clients who are an important part of my life and inspiration. They truly add to the beauty of Carnet.” 

"I love coloured gems; they’re a Carnet signature and make life so much more fun. My first Carnet piece was more classic, though—a pair of diamond studs gifted from my mum years ago. They go with everything and I still wear them all the time."

– Jennifer Cheung 

"What catches my eye is a piece of jewellery that is almost like a mini sculpture, a masterpiece of art that is crafted to perfection—delicate and cleverly designed so that each precious stone catches the light and makes the colours dance. I consider Michelle’s creations to be like pieces of art, so I collect them as I would do paintings or sculptures. It’s not just about wearing them; it’s about building a collection that I can enjoy and admire—like art."

– Pansy Ho 

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"Good jewellery speaks to your personal style. This white-diamond brooch is the first Carnet piece I ever owned. Michelle pointed it out to me when I visited her store and said, ‘This really suits you.’ It was love at first sight. I’m particularly impressed by the craftsmanship and how light it is. They had a lot of colourful brooches, but I was drawn to this one; it is an art piece."

– Michelle Ma-Chan

"Helming a home-grown haute joaillerie house for 20 years isn’t easy. I admire Michelle’s perseverance tremendously. I visited her design studio, and such an exceptional level of craftsmanship is so rarely sustained in a local business. I also find her to be very precise, quick and a straight shooter—all qualities I admire in women."

– Carina Lau 

"I remember seeing Angelina Jolie at the Oscars many years ago wearing a black gown and a pair of incredible emerald drop earrings, and being blown away. The Carnet jewellery I’m wearing has the same powerful effect. Green is a strong colour in Chinese culture because of its associations with jade. I also love that the design reflects nature with the beautiful leaf-like pattern. Michelle has created a very modern look which feels fresh and sophisticated."

– Claudine Ying 

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"Sometimes big chunky pieces of jewellery can look like they are stuck onto the wearer. With Carnet, there is a fluidity to the pieces; they move with you. I especially love their use of rose-cut diamonds. It’s very old Hollywood glamour, but done in a contemporary way. As a wine lover, I’d compare it to a Burgundy. It has got that feminine touch and subtlety, but is still glamourous."

– Amanda Cheung 

“Michelle’s pieces are more than just beautiful sparkling pieces of jewellery. Her knowledge and deep understanding of East and West mean she can unite the two cultures and layer her designs with symbolism that has an emotional connection to Chinese jewellery collectors but also create designs that appeal aesthetically to the rest of the world.”

– Pansy Ho

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