Anna Hu: born to be gifted

“I lived for art, I lived for love.”
Tosca, Puccini

“Every time when God closes one door, he opens another,” these words always come to my mind when I think about Anna Hu, as well as, “sometimes it's worth waiting.”

Today I invite you to “peep” into the thoughts of Anna Hu, a jewellery artist, and to discover how masterpieces are born from ideas. She creates not more than 30 exclusive jewelsper year for private collectors, and her designs reflect the rarity and sophistication of her spirit.

“I was eight years old when I first held a handful of gems. They seemed to dance in my little hands as the light struck them, and I was mesmerized. The experience gave me the same sense of visceral power that I felt when I played my first Rachmaninoff sonata on the cello. In my hands, I knew that I could give life to music and beautiful stones alike.

For many years I trained rigorously and with single-minded dedication to become a virtuoso cellist. At thirteen, I won first prize in the cello competition in Taiwan; a year later, I was deeply honored to play with my personal hero, Yo-Yo Ma. When I was twenty, while studying under Laurence Lesser, President of the New England Conservatory, I was confronted with the heartbreaking reality that I would never live out my childhood dream because of the permanent shoulder injury. For months I mourned the loss of music and yearned for that visceral power I felt every time I touched the cello and made the notes dance in my hands.

I was lost in sorrow until I suddenly remembered my other childhood love and how I once thought that beautiful stones were like musical notes. That was the start of my journey as a composer of gems.” (From the book “Symphony of Jewels: Anna Hu Opus 1”)

Anna Hu

So, after all these years of creating jewellery, what is still a challenge for you?

– Time to sleep? I’m too busy! (Both laughing.)

It’s in life, but in jewellery, do you have any challenges?

– Actually, I always found all stages of creating jewellery to be a fun part, an interesting aspect. So, of course, I wish to come up with a more innovative design… But I’ve never found it like a challenge, I just enjoy it so much. Of course, every time I try to do something different from what I did before. And that would be the most important part of my self-enlightment. When I achieve my goal, then this time I want to do something new. Always fresh!

Is it difficult to create new collection? How it happens in your mind?

– The creative part is never challenging. Maybe, it’s because I’m Pisces, I’m so impulsive, always crazy. I find the creative part to be like oxygen. It makes me so happy, I just don’t find it difficult. Management operation is a bit hard for me, but in terms of creativity it’s like…if you ask Mozart whether it’s difficult for him to compose music, he can’t say, because it comes from the heart. When it comes from the heart, it’s natural.

I understand, but you know, some creative people have stressful periods when they can’t give life to anything.

– I did have a period, which lasted six months, I just felt dry. And when I have one, I don’t do it.

– You don’t create at all, do you?

– I don’t force myself to create, when I don’t feel like it. So, for those six months I took a break, listened to music…I like my pieces to be effortless, you know, without effort.

Do you mean they should be born without efforts?

– Yeah, it has to be organic. I mean, if an opera singer has no voice, he can’t sing, and you don’t force himto sing. So, I have one part of time when I do nothing. I stay in the workshop or in my studio for 18 hours every day. I have so much inspiration, I create and pick up my stones, for example, for the necklace, I just don’t sleep! I have thousands of layouts to the wax…I create without stopping. But then I crash.

Maybe, then you have a period when you should relax.

– Yeah… So sometimes very intense, sometimes totally nothing. I don’t come up with one collection at a time as, for example, Van Cleef & Arpels. It’s more about global approach. I make only one-of-a-kind niche jewels, so I took piece by piece. For example, to my water lily, I created a few years ago, I will add earrings and a ring. So, I will create two or three pieces per year and have a complete collection in 3, 5 or 8 years. Meanwhile, I will design Art Deco collection, so I’ll have two or three themes or collections that happen simultaneously, because some of my clients wear curve line, some of them like symmetrical line. I don’t do one complete collection per year. I do several pieces for two-three collections. Morelikea J.A.R. approach.

Do you want your jewellery to come into the history?

– It’s not what I want to, that’s what it will be. Because, for example, I’m the personal jeweler of Pansy Ho, who has antique pieces from everywhere, and I’m the one who makes a whole collection for her. We’re kind of asking each private collector to keep my pieces to give to the offspring. But when they pass out of the offspring, it becomes history. Moreover, my pieces, sold at the Christie’s, are already a world record. A history record.

Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie Orpheus Ring set with jade of 45.39 carats was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2013 for $2.59 mln (estimated $517 756–776 634).

 In July 2012 Anna presented her first global exhibition at the Louvre’s Les Arts Décoratifs in Parisat theage of 35.

Anna Hu Orpheus Ring set with jade of 45.39 carats

Tell me something that only you know about your jewellery and it can surprise others.

– I think, the color range of my jewellery. The depth and the level of color…I think, nobody can really analyze, but myself.

The most significant Anna Hu’s piece is the Monet Waterlily necklace, with the painting standing behind it. Pay attention to how Anna chooses her color for the lake: from the morning till the noon, and from evening till the sunset.

Anna Hu Waterlily necklace: cabochon tanzanite of 5.22 carats, 11 sapphires of 41.5 carats total, tsavorites, morganites, alexandrites, Paraiba tourmalines, natural sapphires, silver diamonds. 1590 gems weighing 630.17 carats. 18K gold.
 
Tatyana Pfaifer, the founder of Jewellery Masterpiece, wearing Anna Hu Waterlily necklace

There is a cute story behind this piece. Anna’s father is a gem exchanger, so he gave her all those gemstones, expecting her to create like more than 10 pieces. However, unexpectedly, Anna put all the gemstones into one piece.

I was told that your father had gifted stones to you for the Waterlily necklace. Is it true?

– My father is a wholesaler. I have nothing, but so many stones available. Nobody can remember, but I have a color memory. I can remember any color among thousands of them. It’s like we have a flower shop, so many options.

Why did you decide to put all these stones in one piece?

–I was inspired by Giverny garden, I love Monet. When I was taking my art history classes at Parsons and Columbia, I was so inspired by the color that I wanted to capture it and transfer along with the light and the green reflection of a lake into a piece of jewellery. So, I interpreted it in my own way.

 All the pieces are created by you, aren’t they?

–Of course, I have a jewellers making for me. But, conceptually, artistically, everything comes from me.

I absolutely adore your first jewellery. I guess, it’s Gnossienne necklace. So beautiful!

–Thank you. I was inspired by an almost nine-hundred-year-old masterpiece of Chinese painting called Auspicious Cranes by Song dynasty emperor Huizong (1082-1135). I saw it in the Palace Museum of Taipei. Huizong was an unwilling ruler during a tumultuous time in China's history and ended with the demise of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). The word gnossienne was coined by composer Erik Satie for a new type of composition. This necklace symbolizes my solo flight.

Anna Hu Gnossienne necklace: Baroque pearls, keshi pearls, jade, cabochon Burmese ruby, diamonds, 1302 gemstones weighing 36.16 carats, 18K white gold

“At the time I was studying under renowned jewelry designer Maurice Galli at Harry Winston. To most, Galli was a living legend in the business of haute joaillerie, but to me he was a maestro who made music with gems.

We shared the same passion for both the art of jewels and classical music. What I learned about designing from watching him as he worked was to shape my creative vision with what I felt in my heart. Our conversations were often about his favorite operas; he loved Mozart’s lyricism, Puccini’s ingenious use of leitmotifs, and Verdi’s dramatic romanticism – the same aesthetics that he imbued in his jewelry. I, in turn, told him about my unfulfilled dream as a classical cellist and my love for Rostropovich and Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Schubert.

Maurice understood instinctively what I could not explain to others in words, as I had always been a quiet person who lived in a visual fantasia of music and dancing gems.” (From the book “Symphony of Jewels: Anna Hu Opus 1”)

 “Then on my 30th birthday, Maurice suggested I create a new concept of jewellery that combines European craftsmanship with an Oriental aesthetic,” Anna shared with South China Morning. “He said to me, ‘Don't be a caged bird’. It was a transitional career moment. At that time I was pregnant, but I had nothing to lose. I was crazy enough to do it.”

He encouraged me to take flight, not to be a caged bird constrained to make purely commercially driven designs, but to give in to the visceral power and freedom of gems that I felt in my hands and in my heart. (From the book “Symphony of Jewels: Anna Hu Opus 1”)

In 2007 Anna launched her eponymous brand, Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie, with the goal of continuing the ancient tradition of custom-made art pieces executed by the finest craftsmen in the world.

A year later, in 2008, against all odds, in the midst of an impending economic recession and on the day of the fall of Lehman Brothers, she opened her flagship boutique at the storied Plaza Hotel in New York. “I’ve tried to look at things as a cellist. When we make a mistake in the midst of the concert, there is no time to worry about it, the only way is to move on,” she told Wall Street Journal.

Before that she has studied at the Gemological Institute of America, F.I.T., Parsons School of Design (Masters, 19th century French Jewelry) and Columbia University (Masters, Arts Administration) while working for Christie’s and Van Cleef & Arpels.

– Is your book coming soon?

– Yes, in December 2017. I do it every five years. Beethoven composed nine symphonies. He couldn’t do number 10. So mine is very simple, from age 30 to age 80. Every 5 years I create a book. So, in 2012 I have Opus 1, in 2017 – Opus 2, when I’m 30, 35, 40, 45 I will create 10 books and then I’m fulfilled.

What do you love most about love?

– Love? Oh my God, that’s my chocolate, my oxygen. I think, without love I would be so dry.

What is love for you? Because for everyone it’s a different thing. 

– It is so difficult to describe. Love is a satisfaction when I see my children. For example, my daughter loves jewellery. We can talk about color, design, stones for days. I have two beautiful children and I’m very happy.

A boy and a girl?

– Yeah, one boy and one girl.

How old are they?

– 12 and 9. I like being busy as a mom and… be creative.

And what about love between a man and a woman?

– That’s very complicated! (both laughing.)

If you could choose only one thing to know from your future, what would you like to know?

– I would love to, for example, see how my pieces are in 100 years’ time.*

Imagine that tomorrow you can wake up having a new talent, new skill. What would you like to have?*

– I would like to be an excellent soprano singer. I can play cello very well, but I don’t have the voice. I would like to have a beautiful singing voice.*

What piece of advice could you give yourself at 18?

– I think, I would just tell myself, “You’re doing good, you’re crazy in that.” I really cannot give any other advice, because I always live every moment of my life without regret. And now, when I actually look back at myself aged 18, I’d say, “Good job girl, go for it, keep doing that until you’re 80!”

What do you hate?

– I hate lies. I can’t stand people making up things. They like to compose something that is not real. But I like truth.

Isn’t it difficult to live like that? You love only truth, but a lot of people in life lie just because they are used to lie. Don’t you feel alone sometimes?

– I don’t mind feeling lonely, but I want to be right.

Never feel lonely?

– I do, but I don’t mind being lonely. I’d rather be lonely than accommodate myself to the road I don’t believe in. I live my own way. I’m a solo player.

Do you have everything in life?

– I feel I have everything in life. I’m so satisfied and happy.

But people say that if they have everything in life, they are bored. Isn’t that so?

– No, it’s never enough, but, you know, I’m satisfied with who I am, where I am, and how I am. I just have to continue developing. I’m very secure. I don’t have a star in the sky I must grab. I’m not like that, I’m very relaxed.

If you had a choice to invite anybody in the world to have dinner, who could it be?

– The Queen of China from the Tang dynasty.

And what would you like to ask her?

– How she made it true. How she survived through being a queen.

Do you do any sport?

– Joga.

What do you appreciate in men?

– That is another hard question. Wisdom, intelligence, experience.

What is the relationship between price and exclusivity, what do you think?

– I never think about price.

Who in your team thinks about that?

– I have people to think about it. I never think about numbers, I’m very bad at maths. If I think about price, I lose everything. That’s why exclusivity is never related to price. Giving you answer I can affirm that if I think about details, I don’t create. It’s too complicated. We have a financial manager, and a complete team. So, I’m pure creative.

What is the most precious in friendship?

– Trust.

This brooch is from Siren Aria collection. This piece is designed for one of the client’s biggest VIP. She wanted Anna to create something representing her family. In the middle of the brooch there is a Paraiba tourmaline. Yellow diamonds, forming the sun around the Paraiba tourmaline, mean her husband, the moon on the right represents herself, and four stars around the sun and the moon represent their children. The line around the Paraiba means the Galaxy. 

 Anna has created a lot of butterfly jewels, because her last name, Hu, in Chinese means butterfly. So she feels her connection to them. And you can see that all her pieces are really detailed, not only at the front, but also at the back. Each butterfly collection represents a year, and in 2007 we’re going to have the 10th anniversary of her brand. 

Anna Hu Elizabeth I Butterfly brooch set with rose diamonds of 3.51 carats total, white diamonds and rubies
 
 
Anna Hu Li Qing Zhao Butterfly brooch set with baroque pearls and diamonds

This bangle is called Van Gogh bangle. The inspiration is from the Iris painting. Pay attention to the colors exactly matching the painting color. 

 

Anna Hu Iris bangle set with diamonds, garnets, tsavorites and sapphires

And this is the Winter Plum bangle. Anna really appreciates her Asian roots, so she has designed a collection called Four Season Gentlemen. Orchid symbolizes spring, bamboo means summer. Spring colors, yellow and pink, are really fresh. Winter plum is the symbol of winter. 

Anna Hu Iris bangle set with white and black diamonds, rubies, onyx
 
  
Anna Hu ring set with rubellite of 28.05 carats and diamonds
 
 
Anna Hu Carmen Ruby necklace set with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and ruby beads

 

 
Anna Hu
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Tatyana Pfaifer

The founder of Jewellery Masterpiece