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Jade has long been regarded as a treasure to the Chinese, being deeply rooted in their culture as the stone for gods and emperors. For thousands of years, it was thought to be a source of good luck, strength and protection, with the jade bangle said to be one of the most valuable and meaningful objects one could gift an Asian woman.
These semi-precious stones can be found all over the world, including Russia, Canada and South America, although the best are said to come from Myanmar. Unlike diamonds, jade is mined in large masses before being cut into large blocks and auctioned. Unbeknownst to most, jade is an umbrella term for two substances, nephrite and jadeite. The former is typically opaque or light green, while the latter comes in hues of white, green, purple, black and pink. Jadeite is rarer and thus more valuable, and is more commonly used in jewellery.
Today, more jewellery designers are experimenting with jadeite in their creations. Jadeite cabochon beads take the place of oriental jadeite carvings, and are set between rows of white diamonds and other precious stones. However, it’ll be prudent to note that it’s not just the Asian designers who are exploring the trend; even Western designers like David Webb and JAR are experimenting with jade and jadeite in their collections.
Since it was established in Beijing in 2003, this high-end jewellery brand has been making waves with its contemporary jadeite pieces set in gold.
The brand’s founder, Huang Yunhe, is also known for giving a ‘voice’ to jadeite. Together with the National Gemstone Testing Centre and China’s Ministry of Land and Resources in 2009, Huang put forward the “Transparent Jadeite (Colourless) Grading" scheme to standardise the grading of colourless jadeite and give this unique stone the same kind of status accorded to diamonds.
Apart from jade, Zhaoyi also works with colourless jadeite, and the rare black and lavender jadeite. In March 2015, Zhaoyi made its European debut at Baselworld with its stunning Imperial Classics collection. On display were bib and pendant necklaces, rings and earrings, featuring smooth jade cabochons, set with diamonds and coloured gemstones. Some of these haute couture offerings also showcased the millennia-old tradition of gold filigree inlay art.
2. Edward Chiu Jewellery Art
The flamboyant Hong Kong-born designer passed away in 2013, but his artistic legacy lives on at his eponymous boutique in Central. Jade jewellery was a lifelong passion for Chiu. A graduate of New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design, he was celebrated for his ability to combine traditional materials and innovative design to create sophisticated pieces that appealed to a new generation of jewellery lovers. Chiu was also one of the first designers to incorporate black and white jade into his creations, and today, his jewellery features jade in a variety of hues.
At Chiu’s boutique, jade aficionados can feast their eyes on exquisite, museum-quality pieces, displayed in gilded birdcages and retailing for millions of dollars. Many of Chiu’s signature works are Art Deco-inspired, featuring motifs such as flowers, birds and butterflies.
3. Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery
Since giving up her job as a political analyst to be a jewellery designer in 2007, Singapore-born Choo Yilin has not looked back. What was once a hobby and side business is now a thriving label, with Choo winning acclaim both at home and overseas, for her breathtakingly feminine designs as well as her cultural and environmental sustainability practices.
A different ready-to-wear collection is released every few months, each one inspired by a heritage and conservation story. Choo’s collections are certainly special: Quartz, amethyst and topaz add glamour and interest to simple jade rings, while precious metal work and natural gemstones turn conflict-free, Grade A Burmese jadeite bangles into something truly eye-catching.
Hong Kong-born Dickson Yewn helms Yewn, and crafts distinctive pieces that reflect the fineness and sophistication of Chinese culture. The name does not merely come from his family name, but is also a homonym, for Yewn also means ‘luck’ in Cantonese. His work, he says, “explores the concepts that are central to Chinese philosophy and culture whilst also echoing the unique aesthetics present in many different forms of decorative arts in China".
Yewn originally trained as a painter. However, he had long been attracted to Chinese art and, in 1995, while still a full-time painter, he began designing fine jewellery for his friends and collectors of his artworks. His creations have adorned many a famous figure, including US First Lady Michelle Obama. Yewn works mostly with gold, but also uses jade, diamonds and other precious gems in his designs. The award-winning designer is known for his lattice rings, inspired by exquisite lattice windows used in ancient Chinese gardens, paper-cut designs, Manchurian motifs, and peonies – the Chinese national flower.