Jewellery designers are increasingly using unconventional organic materials interspersed with diamonds, pearls or coloured gemstones to develop standout collections.
Photos 1, 4, 6, 7 by SinniS Design
Jewellery from Sinny Lam’s ‘The Dancing Wood’ Collection
Jewellery pieces inspired by kingfisher art technique by Patty Wang
This article first appeared in the JNA January/ February 2021 issue.
Thanks to the ingenuity of modern jewellery designers, non-traditional materials are finding their way into distinctive jewellery pieces that shine the spotlight on nature’s inherent beauty.
Taiwanese designer Patty Wang offers jewellery pieces inspired by an ancient Chinese technique that uses the striking blue feathers of the kingfisher bird to adorn fine art objects, including jewellery. Through her jewellery brand, Yu . KingfisherArt, Wang gives these “kingfisher art” jewellery pieces a modern appeal.
Dating back 2,000 years to historical China, this technique involves a sophisticated process of carefully inlaying kingfisher feathers on objects and ornaments all the while preserving their electric blue colour.
“The finest pieces of kingfisher art were reserved for royalty or high-ranking officials. It was usually used to make very large headpieces, which are no longer suitable for wear today,” revealed Wang. “We acquire those headpieces from ordinary collectors or the general public, take them apart and repurpose the pieces into modern jewellery. By doing so, we hope to keep this very special, unique ancient Chinese technique alive.”
The jewellery pieces are easily discernable through their vivid blue hues and artistic designs.
Wang’s fascination began more than 30 years ago when she saw a kingfisher art jewellery piece on display at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. “I was so touched when I saw it. It was so beautiful, prestigious and imbued with a deep cultural background. It certainly symbolises the Chinese people,” the designer told JNA.
This kicked off a lifelong passion for collecting kingfisher art jewellery pieces and redesigning them into contemporary, wearable art.
Wang said the metal parts would at times get distorted during the process since the materials are old.
“They must be dealt with extreme care. We also pay close attention to matching the natural colours of the feathers. The new designs are likewise made to harmonise with the original look. That’s part of the challenge,” she remarked.
Taking inspiration from everyday life, the kingfisher art pieces are reformed into the shape of a musical instrument, an insect or a peach with an auspicious meaning. These are further adorned with precious materials such as diamonds, rubies, jadeites and pearls for added elegance.
Wang has a shop at a five-star hotel in Central, Hong Kong. Her brand is also visible in international jewellery exhibitions and public auctions.
Her kingfisher art jewellery collections have a following in Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China, Europe and the US. “In recent years, we have seen more young people buying our jewellery, probably due to actresses wearing them in popular Chinese dramas. Customers are now looking for something unique and ‘kingfisher art’ jewellery pieces certainly fulfil this criteria,” Wang said.
A former IT professional, Hong Kong designer and artisan Sinny Lam embarked on her creative journey in 2018 by putting up her own brand, SinniS Design. What sets her apart from other young jewellers is her choice of product: Handcrafted wooden jewellery.
Lam said she hopes to promote the idea of individuality through the brand. “Wood is unexpectedly versatile and can be made into many shapes. Every piece of wood – even of the same species – is unique with different textures, colours and aromas. This corresponds to my goal of encouraging people to follow their heart and be themselves because we are all unique,” noted Lam.
After experimenting with many kinds of materials such as glass, leather and porcelain, Lam found her perfect material. She combines wood with freshwater pearls, brass with 14-karat gold plating and cubic zirconia.
Her jewellery is lightweight and can be worn comfortably. The brand is also environment friendly as some of the materials come from old furniture or recycled from wood factories.
Lam uses more expensive kinds of wood with higher density such as sandalwood and rosewood that are often used for high-end furniture. These are more durable and have a shiny finish after layers of polishing.
She also draws design inspirations from the wood itself. “I work around the materials when I design. I want to keep the original, natural and unique characteristics of the wood,” the designer said.
The brand now has three jewellery lines: The Dancing Wood, characterised by curves and waves; I’m not a DIAMOND!, featuring diamond-shaped wood as centrepieces; and Colours of Nature, which shows the different colours of wood arranged together to highlight its natural beauty. Lam has online stores on platforms such as Pinkoi, Idus from Korea and Esty. Her jewellery is also displayed at Loupe, a design incubation space founded by Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd in Hong Kong, which she was invited to join as a designer-in-residence in 2019.
She also joined international exhibitions in Taiwan and Korea, and was invited to take part in the Milan Jewellery Exhibition, which was postponed due to the pandemic.
The brand has so far received positive response since its inception, particularly from Asian buyers. “They like my product because they cannot find anything similar in the market,” Lam remarked. Looking ahead, she aspires to join more overseas jewellery exhibitions and develop new designs to enrich her existing collections.