Haute jewelry designer Cindy Chao, known for her sculptural style and one-of-a-kind statement pieces, has until now presented her exclusive pieces only at international museums, art fairs, auctions or by appointment. This month, the artist is opening her first public space, a museum-like gallery in Taipei, Taiwan.
Chao, whose company name is Cindy Chao The Art Jewel, is the daughter of a sculptor who taught her the techniques and skills used in sculpting, which strongly shaped her style as a jewelry designer. Her work is also influenced by her grandfather, an architect who designed temples across Taiwan. Her designs are inspired by nature and rendered in incredible detail – with undulating petals, furled leaves and budding flowers – and typically set with thousands of gemstones.
Chao’s annual Black Label Masterpiece collection consists of one-of-a-kind pieces that are each named, numbered, and dated. Some of the current collection will be exhibited at the new gallery, including the Caribbean Summer brooch and the Spring Cardamom brooch. Both are typical of Chao’s style, with flowing, undulating lines and gemstones by the thousands.
The Caribbean Summer brooch is the star of the show. Designed to resemble the Musa leaves native to the Caribbean, it is set with a 3.80-carat Muzo Colombian emerald, surrounded by 2,000 diamonds, 375 of which are Asscher-cut (Asscher-cuts total 62.54 carats), along with 1,731 tsavorites totaling 24.67 carats, for a total of 91.8 carats of gemstones. Running down the center of the piece is a piece of highly polished European cow horn. In order to perfectly represent the texture of the vein of a Musa leaf, Chao adopted the technique of channel setting, which uses tension rather than prongs, for the first time. The metal is lightweight titanium, which is ideal for large pieces (because it is lightweight) with delicate edges (for stability; titanium is much harder than gold and twice as hard as steel).
The Spring Cardamom brooch, also made of titanium, is sculpted in the shape of a budding pod, anchored by an 81.11-carat, oval-shaped Colombian emerald cabochon. It is surrounded by 5,356 gemstones, including diamonds, brown diamonds, color-change garnet, demantoid garnet, tsavorite, green sapphires and alexandrite, for a total weight of 235.07 carats. The pod leaves are articulated, allowing them to move slightly with the motion of the wearer.
The new space is located in one of Taipei’s top hotels, the Regent Taipei. Four free-standing showcases in the center of the gallery display five Black Label Masterpiece creations. Another focal point is a large showcase embedded in a mirror wall where nine of the designer’s jewels seem to float weightlessly. The levitating pieces are constantly in motion, with their appearance changing according to how they catch the light. The space was designed by Dutch architect Tom Postma in collaboration with French designer Ingrid Donat who created the gallery’s handcrafted bronze wall.
Chao is the first Asian jewelry artist to receive a knighthood from France’s Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres. started The Art Jewel in 2004, and since then, has worked with A-list celebrities and exhibited at the world’s top fairs, including haute couture jewelry week in Paris. Her works have been collected by connoisseurs and exhibited at art fairs and institutions around the world, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.