Jewelry often is referred to as art, and designers such as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel exhibited their work in art galleries to show its refinement and future value—and it is a tradition that Rachel Bu is continuing through her new jewelry brand, Authorne.
Bu, a contemporary artist and jewelry designer, is unveiling her first fine jewelry collection with a curated exhibition at Powerhouse Arts in Brooklyn. The Sept. 19 event will feature her first 18 jewelry pieces as well as her artist sketches, process renderings, and digital artwork.
It’s a bold entry into the jewelry industry, and that’s exactly how Bu wants it, she says. Her approach to jewelry is like the one she has taken with her artwork—she combines media, technology, and artistic technique to explore and expand upon the motifs she selects, coming up with new ways of looking at the world around us.
For example, the cicada may evoke for some memories of its summertime rhapsodies—for good or for ill. To Bu, the cicada motif in her jewelry is a symbol of luck and transformation, emerging from the ground every 17 years to teach humanity lessons of tenacity and personal growth, Bu says.
To show this in her jewelry, Bu created a cicada in 18k green gold with pave diamonds that seems to stand in an upright position with stained-glass wings folded against its body. Its back is covered with delicate patterns that include the face of Victoria, the goddess of victory. By wearing this symbol, people gain its resilience and show their willingness to embrace change, Bu says.
“I am in a cicada phase in my own life,” Bu says. “I am a mother, which is new to me. I am now in my 30s, which is new to me. I have started a jewelry business, which is like giving birth.… Cicadas in Eastern and Western cultures are about rebirth. It’s about finding your wings and taking flight. I added in Victoria, and when it was all put together, it became a lucky charm. It’s like the kiss of the muse that results in your success.”
Bu started as a professional artist, and her jewelry work is informed by those years, she says. During art school, Bu says, she was drawn to media like liquid latex and wax to cast and mold her works.
She began sculpting found objects using these media or materials that could become liquid yet quickly transitioned back to solids. Those transitions fascinated Bu, she says, and it spurred her curiosity about art.
“That ability to transform led me to explore what jewelry could be—the process and the practice were similar,” Bu says. “It’s that meditative state of being able to transition something liquid into a solid.”
Bu created Authorne in 2022 as a fine jewelry brand to expand that artistic thinking into gold. In her inaugural collection, she uses four other motifs in addition to the cicada: the octopus, the guardians, the angel, and the devil as well as the mother chain. The mother chain serves as a link among all the pieces in these collections, Bu says, letting the customer determine how they want to wear her pieces.
Bu says she hopes to create more collections, but she’s particularly excited to do custom work with clients to help them develop their own motifs that reflect their lives.
To that end, Bu adds, her brand’s name comes from her own imagination, combining many aspects of her life and jewelry practice. At its core it blends the words “author” and “adorn,” indicating that Bu hopes her work is about wearing your own story. It also includes Au, or the periodic symbol for gold, something important to her Chinese heritage.
“[My jewelry] is about solidifying a memory or a moment in your life that’s important to you as an individual. It goes beyond decorative or beautiful—it’s an heirloom that reminds you of that experience,” Bu says.
Top: Chinese-Canadian artist Rachel Bu will unveil her new jewelry brand, Authorne, Sept. 19 with a special New York exhibition (photo courtesy of Authorne; photographer Tai Lee).@jckmagazine
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