“We have spent the first 15 years fighting to tell our story and promote our brand,” says Hong Kong and Taipei, Taiwan–based high jewelry designer Cindy Chao, a wildly coveted name in contemporary high jewelry design that’s well-known to those who float in international, high-net-worth circles.
In 2020, she celebrated the 15-year anniversary of her brand, Cindy Chao The Art Jewel, and will be marking the milestone over the span of several months this year with a staggered debut of several one-of-a-kind designs. Only the first two have been released thus far (and are showcased here); all will encapsulate Chao’s singular East-meets-West aesthetic and what has become her signature: gems of the highest order, so special, in fact, that they beckon collectors from all over the world to board their private jets and meet her for tea.
But if she was “fighting” all this time, her exertions have paid off.
“Along the way, there were different opportunities and awards as well as clients that appreciated my creativity and saw my unique vision for high jewelry,” she says, reflecting on the career highlights that helped pave her glittering path to success. “The most significant and personal successes are the inductions of my works into the permanent collections at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and Victoria and Albert Museum. It amazes me that annually around 20 million visitors around the world may view my pieces in these established cultural institutions.”
Others who have responded to her voice: Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips De Pury. And Julia Roberts, memorably styled by Elizabeth Stewart, at the 2019 Golden Globes.
There are 13 jewels planned for the anniversary collection at the moment. Each takes a distinct organic form, like a blooming diphylleia (also known as skeleton flower) and an airborne dragonfly, both pictured below.
Further evidence that Cindy Chao The Art Jewel is flourishing: the opening last fall of a private showroom in Shanghai—the designer’s first in mainland China—located within the Bund, the city’s historic waterfront district. Chao tapped Dutch architect Tom Postma to design the new space, having collaborated with him at TEFAF Maastricht last March on her salon-like booth at the fair (which miraculously managed to happen just before the global coronavirus shutdown).
“Ever since our Shanghai maison opened last November, we have been fully engaged every day in meeting with jewelry enthusiasts all over China,” says Chao. “Our art jewels, our private showroom appointment business model, which offers exclusivity and privacy, and [the space], which is adorned with art pieces from world-renowned artists, are all unique in the market.”
Chao says her brand’s journey has unfolded against the backdrop of a global jewelry landscape that has changed—but apparently one that is more amenable to her point of view as a jewelry artist.
“When I first started, there were not a lot of people who understood my concept of ‘art jewels,’ especially in Asia,” says the designer. “In the past 15 years, the world has changed drastically. People are getting new information every day. With everything in the world becoming so fast-paced, collectors nowadays treasure true craftsmanship, [and designers who are] stepping back and spending time to achieve perfection.
“My work integrates the Eastern architectural and sculptural training I have inherited from my family, in combination with the Western jewelry craftsmanship dating back to 300 years ago, and has proven to be cross-cultural and appreciated by a wide range of individuals. I am sure that in the decades to come, we will see even more styles in jewelry flourishing while constantly adding to the diversity in the field. In addition to big jewelry houses with centuries-old history, globally there appear more and more independent creators challenging the limits of jewelry design.”
And when the world opens up again, we’ll hopefully have the chance to witness this more regularly, with Chao leading the charge with her anniversary masterpieces from one of her perches in Asia, or from a meticulously styled booth space at one of the European art fairs we’ve been having to miss.
Can’t pop the Champagne just yet, but we’re certainly chilling it in anticipation.
Top: Designer Cindy Chao is celebrating 15 years in the business with a special anniversary series of highly collectable jewels. For 2021, Chao and her team are excited about several upcoming opportunities to showcase her work in exhibition form, both in Shanghai and in Europe, all in the planning stages.
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