Tales from the Unexpected

Tales from the Unexpected

The global talent of design jewelry tells VO + the secrets and the genesis of 'A Heritage in Bloom'.
Wallace-ChanA humble beginning as an apprentice to opening a gemstone - carving workshop by he was 17, the Chinese jewelry prodigy Wallace Chan is today an acclaimed jewelry creator, artist and philosopher. Along the years, his various creations like the Wallace Cut- an illusionary carving technique, Titanium based wearable art, innovative gem settings and jade carvings have made headlines that won him several accolades and awards. “It was my desire to create that turned me from an obedient apprentice to a rebellious creator. I was tired of chores and producing defective artifacts repetitively. After being an apprentice for 9 months, I left my master and set up my gemstone carving workshop. It was 1973, and I was 17”, adds Chan.

His extraordinarily creative thought process primarily revolves around three key elements: materials, craftsmanship and creativity.  His work is a marriage of western and eastern influences and includes many Chinese symbolic motifs like dragonflies, fish, insects, dragons, flowers and butterflies.

To these he adds, “There is always a world within a world, and there is always something new to be discovered. It is a sense of limitlessness that the world represents. Beauty is everywhere, the roundness of prayer beads, the stories of butterflies and bats, the sparkles of diamonds and the smoothness of jade... When you love, you are easily stimulated, as the very existence of those you love becomes responses to your affection.”

His latest creation ‘A Heritage in Bloom’ necklace was initiated by one of the world’s largest jeweller Chow Tai Fook. The journey started five yeas ago when Chow Tai Fook acquired a 507.55-carat Type IIA Cullinan Heritage rough diamond. Countless hours of meticulous precision resulted in a 104-carat D color flawless round brilliant diamond (bearing a Forevermark inscription) and 23 DIF diamonds.

Wallace Chan was chosen by Chow Tai Fook to design a jewelry piece around this flawless 104 carat diamond but Chan insisted on using all 24 diamonds that were cut out of the Cullianan Heritage rough. And thus ‘A heritage in Bloom’ was born, set with 383.40 carat colorless and pink diamonds totaling 11,551 diamonds, as well as more than one hundred pieces of green jadeite and mutton fat white jade. Uniquely modular, it can be worn in 27 different styles, showcasing the sophistication of the design and exquisite composition that is beyond comparison. This unique jeweled piece of art is estimated at $200 million, the most expensive necklace in the world today.

‘A Heritage in Bloom’… How did it all start?

It began with an idea, and then a lot of experiments and practices. I had to find the right materials, and invent the tools and craftsmanship I needed. Step by step I constructed a shrine for my dreams. round an important stone and so is ‘A Heritage in Bloom’ necklace…

Most of your pieces revolve around an important stone and so is ‘A Heritage in Bloom’ necklace… Any particular reason?

Each and every stone is a generous gift from Mother Nature. I think they are all important in their own way. When I first began my career in jewelry, it was very difficult for me to acquire stones. The ideal stones were always reserved for other people. Eventually I learned that, for people to trust you with their stones, you must have the experience and craftsmanship that gave them reasons and confidence. Today, the stones come to me.


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Explain your decision to use the entire family cut out of the 507 carat Cullinan Heritage diamond.

When the owner of the Cullinan Heritage came to me with the 104ct diamond, I thought: with the rough stone being 507ct, there must be other stones cut from it. So I asked the owner about it, and found out that altogether there were 24 DIF diamonds.

Stones to me are not dead objects, but living wonders. Lively as they are, they must have emotions, too. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I wanted them to share the joy of reunion and harmony. I wanted the family to stay together. So I asked the owner whether it was possible for them to be created into one single jewelry piece. He kindly agreed.

What was your inspiration for ‘A heritage in bloom’?

I created this piece with a universal view on my mind; I wanted all to be harmonized. When I conversed with the 104ct diamond, I recalled a visit to a European church many years ago, I was attracted by the ceiling of the church, I felt energy going upwards, pulling me up to the dome; it was a sense of grandeur and sublime. I felt it again when I immersed the petals of the light in the stone -- the infinite reflections of the light. It bloomed in my heart like a flower of my dreams. And that was how I got my inspiration for the 104ct pendant in the necklace.

Describe the colors and the materials used?

To illustrate the idea of harmony, perfection and cultural confluence further, mutton fat white jade beads with diamonds inlaid were used for the necklace. The mutton fat white jade beads took the shape of prayer beads. I thought of prayer beads as something transcending cultures and religions. I polished the mutton fat white jade beads to perfect roundness, emptied them out, and placed titanium parts inside them so they could be connected throughout the piece invisibly. I set a diamond inside each bead so the humility and smoothness of jade – a symbol of the East, embraced the power and sparkles of diamond – a long celebrated love of the West – with this the confluence of cultures was achieved.

Speaking of mutton fat white jade and diamonds, although their textures make a sharp contrast, they are both colorless. So green jadeite and pink diamonds were used to enliven the piece. I used diamond-cutting on the green jadeite so that its shape harmonized with that of the diamonds. Only jadeite of icy type could be suitable for diamond-cutting and it took a long time to handpick jadeite of the right color and quality.

How has been your partnership with Chow Tai Fook till now?

“A Heritage in Bloom” is our very first collaboration. Chow Tai Fook gave me total trust, support and freedom. Not once did they ask to see the sketch. My gratitude is beyond words.

How does it feel that one of your creations is now the most expensive necklace in the world estimated at 200 million dollars?

If you think about it – there will always be something more expensive. We didn’t create this piece for it to be the most expensive necklace in the world – that was not our purpose. We wanted to create something for history, a jewelry art piece that would stand the test of time and pass on spiritual values.

Wallace Chan is a man who does not rest and just a few weeks after the unveiling of ‘A heritage in Bloom’ came the announcement of his first-ever limited edition illustrated monograph – Dream Light Water. With a pre-launch event in New York and solo exhibition in Hong Kong, the book is worth waiting for.

The book showcases eighty-six pieces of jewelry through close-up photography emphasizing details. After its first launch in Hong Kong, Wallace Chan and his team begin a world tour, presenting the book and sharing the micro-view of jewelry art through exhibitions and talks.

Text Preeta Agarwal

‘A Heritage in Bloom’, a masterpiece with 11551 pink and colorless diamonds weighing 383.4 carats as well as about one hundred green jadeites and 'mutton fat' nephrites. ‘A Heritage in
Bloom’, a masterpiece
with 11551
pink and colorless
diamonds weighing
383.4 carats as well
as about one hundred
green jadeites
and 'mutton fat'

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