From Mine to Store: Wallace Chan’s Butterfly Brooch

In Chinese lore, butterflies represent long life and everlasting love. But for Hong Kong ­jeweler ­Wallace Chan, the artist behind this bejeweled brooch, the delicate insect is also “the perfect symbol of the power of life in nature.” Butterflies are a familiar motif in the enigmatic designer’s repertoire; he’s made them using diamonds, crystals, sapphires, and rubies. It took Chan a year and a half to corral the gems for this vibrant piece (retail: $770,000), chiefly jade, colored and colorless ­diamonds, garnets, and mother-of-pearl. But superhuman patience has always been a part of his creative process. “The lead time for a piece very much depends on the desirable gemstones available,” he says. “Sometimes it may take months or even years to get the appropriate ones.” Few would argue that this winged wonder wasn’t worth the wait.

Inside Job

The brooch boasts 44.91 cts. t.w. jade, 4.57 cts. t.w. diamonds, 15 cts. t.w. yellow and brown diamonds (784 in all), 8.62 cts. t.w. green garnets (295 in all), and 90.45 cts. t.w. mother-of-pearl set in titanium and white gold. Yet the piece is “extremely light due to the titanium,” says Chan.

Double Exposure

In 2010, Chan was the first contemporary jewelry artist invited by the Capital Museum in Beijing to hold a solo exhibition at the iconic museum. And this fall, his will become the first-ever fine jewelry brand from Asia to exhibit at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris.

Wing Man

Chan cites Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi as an inspiration for the piece. The famous thinker, who lived around the 4th century B.C., wrote that he dreamed he was a butterfly, but woke to find that he couldn’t tell if he dreamt he was the butterfly, or if it was the butterfly dreaming it was him. Zhuangzi’s sentiments “speak to his view of an ‘all is one’ world,” says Chan.

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