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Hong Kong Jewellery Collection - Flair For Design

Vol.1 1999




THREE Hong Kong designers were among 15 representatives from seven Asian countries chosen to take part in Italy’s 10-year-long Oro d’Autore project, which celebrates the artistry of the Italian jewellery industry.

Fashion designer Barney Cheng, graphic designer Freeman Lau and sculptor Van Lau are the three representatives from Hong Kong whose creations have been manufactured by Italian craftsmen. They join designers from the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, mainland China, Indonesia and South Korea. The jewellery produced by this diverse group illustrates the main theme of the project — A Jewel for the Third Millennium.

The designers’ 15 pieces were exhibited with 78 previous Oro d’Autore products at the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. It is the first time Hong Kong has been given the opportunity to host the project, which was supported by the Italian Trade Commission and Centro Affari e Convegni Arezzo.

Cheng describes his Creature Comfort gold and diamond handcuffs as a tongue-in-cheek “reflection of Hong Kong and, as an extension, [of] the civilised society whose motto is work hard, play hard”. He says the bracelet, designed to be worn as a set on one wrist, “is the perfect accessory for someone who has all the available trappings of status”.

Freeman Lau’s Golden Dream table ornament reflects how goals and wishes “are everlasting, just like the nature of gold”. His design features a ladder, a golden cloud and a chair above the cloud. “The chair above the cloud symbolises a goal and a dream in our lifetime, whereas the long ladder means that we have to make a lot of effort in order to reach our goal,” he says.

The Cicada brooch, by Van Lau, expresses metamorphosis as a design concept. “It symbolises making a thorough- going change, which is a vital element for an enthusiastic life,” Lau says.

He pays homage to Italy’s cultural heritage that dates from the ancient Roman empire, which in turn was inspired by the ancient Greeks. “Italian design art and jewellery craftsmanship alone have 2,500 years of history,” he says.

Italian Trade Commissioner Leonardo Radicati, who represents Hong Kong and the Philippines, says the designers were selected by Italian Trade Commission offices in each of the seven countries. “We chose renowned designers who could contribute new ideas from their own fields. We wanted the pieces to be artistic, rather than commercial. We hope they will inspire jewellers all over the world,” Radicati says.

After the fair, the items went on permanent display at the Museum of Contemporary Gold Jewellery Art in Arezzo, known as Italy’s city of gold.

Despite increasing competition, Italy remains the largest producer of jewellery in the international market. Its exports were valued at US$41bn in 1997, an increase of 6.7% over the same period in 1996.

Hong Kong is the fifth-largest market for Italian jewellery, following the US, Panama, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. Hong Kong’s imports in 1997 were worth more than US$200m. Hong Kong is Italy’s largest importer of precious jewellery. For the first four months of 1998, imports were worth more than US$55m.

“Italy’s jewellery tradition, combined with practices such as the non-showing of porosity in gold casting, the use of the highest possible quality of stones, precise settings and hand-finishing with high attention to style and creativity have all paved the way to success,” Radicati says.

Written by Andrea Pawlyna


LET loose a group of fashion designers to make jewellery and what do you get? Just Gold Co Ltd’s stunning Hong Kong Fashion Designers’ Assn Collection ’98.

The six fashion designers chosen to create this collection — now in its fourth year — were Barney Cheng, Flora Cheong-leen, Lu Lu Cheung, Allan Chiu, Walter Ma and Rowena U.

The designers gave free rein to their imaginations and Just Gold’s craftsmen turned those ideas into reality. The result was simple, affordable jewellery that appeals to Just Gold’s core customers — independent women aged 20-39.

“It’s one of our best-selling collections,” says Ian Ng, managing director of Just Gold, which specialises in the production of 24K gold jewellery and has 18 outlets in Hong Kong, one in Macau and 12 in Taiwan.

Each piece is made of 24K gold, with some items containing other materials, such as seashells. The collection consists of five categories of jewellery — rings, earrings, necklaces, pendants, and bracelets.

Ng says the idea behind persuading fashion designers to design jewellery was to help keep Just Gold’s designs as up-to-the-minute as possible. “In the 1980s, 24K gold jewellery had a very traditional image. It’s always been our intention to work with fashion designers to keep our jewellery on the cutting edge of fashion and design,” he explains.

A natural mood prevails in this collection, with such motifs as butterflies, buds, rope, flowers, leaves, feathers, stars and shells, and geometric patterns.

Butterflies are an important theme in Rowena U’s creations. In one piece, two butterflies dangle from a knotted necklace chain. Butterflies in different sizes also give shape to dangle earrings and a ring. Other designs, including a necklace, bracelet and ring, were inspired by her surname — U shapes connected by hearts, which stand for I love you. “I wanted to create energetic, young-looking pieces,” she says.

Walter Ma’s designs focus on feathers and stars. His necklace, bracelet and ring consist of a series of links and bands that end in the sweep of a large, curved feather. In another design, two stars dangle on one end of a double chain that loops around the neck. The star also appears on a simple ring.

“Feathers are very light and gold is quite heavy, so I wanted to show the contrast. With the stars, I wanted to express the different stages of a woman’s life when she shines very brightly, like a blaze of fire,” Ma says.

Ng maintains that fashion designers bring a fresh perspective to jewellery design. “They are not bound by the same psychological limits as jewellery designers who work with gold every day. If we ask our own designers to come up with something astonishing or dramatic, it might be difficult for them. But fashion designers are used to thinking more freely so new ideas come out,” Ng says.

However, because clothing and gold are vastly different materials, the fashion designers needed to be coached about gold’s properties — and what was practical from a production point of view.

“We tried to get them to realise what gold can and cannot do — 24K gold is very soft, for instance. Even though they might want to create something very delicate, such as filigree, it might not be practical,” Ng says.

The ultimate aim was to produce an artistic, yet saleable, collection with broad appeal. “The style is East-meets-West. It’s a mixture of all kinds of designs,” Ng says.

Written by Andrea Pawlyna

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