Since opening her company, the Art Jewel, Taiwanese jeweler Cindy Chao has been heralded for her dramatic, gem-encrusted floral fantasies. Her work, limited to fewer than 20 pieces a year, is marked by fearlessness matched with such astounding technical skill that the Smithsonian Natural History Museum acquired her exquisite Butterfly brooch, a masterpiece crafted of 2,300 gems of diamonds, rubies, and tsavorite garnets. “I am driven to make breakthroughs in the possibilities of jewelry,” says the Taiwan-based Chao, who recently created the stunning Architectural earrings and Branch bangle worn by Best Picture presenter Julia Roberts at this year’s Oscar ceremony. Chao has also made headlines for her staggering auction results. Her Ruby Ribbon ring, for example, set with an 8.03-carat pigeon-blood Burmese ruby, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $3.84 million and set a new record for a piece of Asian contemporary jewelry. “I want my art jewels to transcend time, geography, culture, and language as this is what art is capable of.”
Unique process: “Each creation begins with a cire perdue, a lost-wax casting method that was popular in 18th-century Europe, and takes around 10,000 hours to create.”
Artistic inspiration: “When I looked at the dynamic façades and curving silhouettes of Antoni Gaudí’s architecture, I felt an overwhelming sense of bravery. He gave new definitions to space and structure.”
Favorite piece: “My Flower Bud brooch from my 2018 Black Label Masterpieces collection. Featuring 30 cabochon emeralds amounting to 93.37 carats, it depicts a slowly blooming blossom that is symbolic of new birth and hope.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Spring Issue under the headline Creative Minds. Subscribe to the magazine.