EASTERN EXPRESSIONS

Five jewellers champion Asian motifs and symbolisms in fine jewellery

Since the early civilisations, symbols have always found a place in jewellery — mostly in the form of amulets for protection and wellness. With vast differences in cultural traits, countries in the Far East have various symbolisms with specific meanings. Nowadays, many Asian jewellers have proudly used common flora and fauna motifs and designs to add a hidden meaning to their creations.

Like most of Asian jewellery designers, New York-based Taiwanese jeweller Anna Hu wants her creations to make an impact that goes beyond design and symbolism. “I want my jewellery to act as a bridge between different cultures and the contemporary art pieces that are steeped in cultural references, to have that deep relevance and resonance in both the East and the West.”

LOTUS

Celestial Lotus earrings, ANNA HU

Being one of the most beautiful and significant flowers in the Chinese culture, the lotus enjoys the prestigious position of being the holy seat of Lord Buddha. Its ability to bloom in difficult situations makes it a symbol of purity, perfection, and perseverance. Commonly seen in various Chinese art and architecture, the lotus is also one of the most common motifs used in fine jewellery, be it in form of a silhouette or a realistic rendering completely studded with pavé gemstones and diamonds.

“As a proud Chinese, it’s hard for me to pick only one Chinese symbol as my favourite. Butterflies, koi fish, lotus flowers, and orchids are all classic Chinese symbols that I’ve been using in my creations. These motifs all bear very lucky and positive meanings in Chinese culture, believed to bring blessings to the wearers. That’s why I like to use them in my jewellery.”

– Anna Hu

BUTTERFLY

A Moon Voyage brooch, WALLACE CHAN

Expressing grace and beauty, butterflies represent love and happiness. Young at heart and always on the move, this charming creature has captured many hearts of jewellery artists and connoisseurs. It is one of the most common motifs used in jewellery — almost every jeweller across the globe has one precious butterfly in their collection. For the Chinese, a butterfly represents young love and is a perfect gift for a new couple.

The butterfly has meant a lot to me throughout my life. When I was a young boy, butterflies were flying colours, for I didn’t know their name then. And then they were the Butterfly Lovers — a tragedy, a love story, a symbol of eternal love. As I grew older butterflies became the embodiment of Lao Tzu’s great philosophy — life is but a dream, only that we need to decide whether we want it to be the dream of a man, or the dream of a butterfly. I want to capture the life and spirit of the butterfly in the light of gemstones, through a wearable work of art.

– Wallace Chan

FISH

Leaping Koi brooch in rubellite, ANNA HU

Goldfish and Koi fish are two most common motifs used in Chinese art and, subsequently, jewellery. Associated with wealth and abundance, both Goldfish and Koi are believed to bring in good luck and success. Beautiful, colourful, and elegant in form, fish makes a beautiful motif for jewellery artists looking to make unique designs.

DRAGONFLY

The Art Jewel Sapphire Dragonfly brooch, CINDY CHAO

A symbol of fresh insights and new beginnings, the dragonfly is one of the most magical motifs used in the Far Eastern art. It brings out hidden ideas and dreams and gives one the strength to realise them. The shape and the rapid but elegant flight of the dragonfly have been transformed into many a precious piece of jewellery. The wings almost work as a canvas for the jewellery artist, as each one has their own interpretation for the intricate lattice-like wings.

Cindy Chao

JADE

Jadeite Cloud & Wind earrings in 18ct gold and diamonds, FEI LIU

What if the gemstone can be carved into auspicious designs and motifs mentioned above? Such is the beauty of jade and jadeite. Most commonly available in shades of green, jade is a symbol of gentleness, harmony, serenity, and is imbued with qualities of both yin and yang. It carries a special energy within itself that is very healing. In Feng Shui, jade is also used for protection and good luck.

“Chinese art is all about intricacy and amazing attention to detail, and that‘s something I try to filter into all of my designs. It’s also about investing in an object that has a philosophical meaning that goes much deeper than the object’s surface qualities and its functionality.

– Fei Liu

I always use jadeite, a widely accepted material among the Chinese and now very welcomed by the Western world, too. With the advantage of easy sourcing of jadeite in Hong Kong, I ask my jadeite cutter to cut the jadeite according to my design. Butterfly, bee, dragonfly, Buddha, etc, are always in my collection.”

– Anita So