Cindy Chao: about auctions, collectors and boundlessness of perfection

Without long introduction, I’d like to say that I strongly respect and humanly love Cindy Chao. We first met last year at Biennale des Antiquaires 2016 and I wrote an article about her. One year later, we met again in Ritz hotel in Paris, where Cindy Chao presented her new jewellery creations as part of Paris Fashion Week. So, we did it the same way – she responded honestly and frankly to my most touching questions so far.

By the way, I forgot an interesting detail: to Cindy’s presentation I invited Inezita Gay-Eckel, a jewellery connoisseur and a professor of L’Ecole des Arts Joaillers, who had worked for Cartier and Tiffany & Co for many years, and she said, “Tanya, there’s nothing to talk about. Her jewellery is original, unique and of top quality. There is a "je ne sais quoi" about a jeweler like Cindy.” I would add that my view of "unique" and original" means, for me personally, that her jewels step outside of date and context and stand alone, timelessly."

Tell me, has anything wonderful happened to you this year?

– I think life has been treating me very well, and since last September we have paid more attention to brand building. It gave me a lot of courage to go broader. That’s why this time we have brought some pieces with my new technique of titanium processing.

– What inspiration is behind your new pieces?

I still continue creating my very organic and sculptural jewellery. You know, every year I add a new butterfly to my collection, but this time I’ve brought two dragonflies. I always wanted to make a dragonfly and cherished this idea in my head for six years.

– Have you faced any challenges while creating these pieces?

I think we have already solved the most difficult part, and now we are more familiar with new materials and new technologies of using titanium, silver, and other metals. I don’t see this as a challenge, I would love to go wider and use all these new high-tech materials.

– You know, many brands now use aluminum!

Right, it’s even lighter. However, I think that, while using new techniques or materials, it’s highly important to remember about the essence of Fine Jewellery. Yes, many brands are using titanium now, but not all of them could fully convey the elegance inherent in High Jewellery. Moreover, titanium or other new materials are not my primary goal. We don’t sell materials, we create High Jewellery.

You create only one-of-a-kind jewellery. It is emotionally and financially costly. Have you ever thought to be focused not only on one-of-a-kind jewellery?

– Yeah, it’s a tough question now

I think High Jewellery is sold much more difficult.

– It’s more difficult, but, you know what? Nowadays no matter if you focus on mass market or High Jewellery, people are still looking for something unique. You should have your own vision, as well as courage to create one-of-a-kind pieces, and wait until they will spark the interest of collectors. It takes some time, but it is really worth it. This is how we reveal our core values and essence. Nowadays it’s very important to bring your own brand essence. 

How to make your art high-priced and sought after?

– Oh my God (both laughing).

Yes, but how? Because today there are so many interesting people, who make beautiful things, but they can boast neither of demand nor of financial success.

– I think that, except for very creative idea with a beautiful artistic design behind it, quality remains a focal point of the whole process. People, who are investing in High Jewellery, still care about the quality of a piece and the value of the stones. Whatever we’ve created and designed for the last 13 years, we have always maintained the highest quality of gems. We only use D, E, F diamonds, for example. However, not many artisans in our industry are able to put enough energy into the small pave setting stones, but the quality makes you work different, much more valuable.  

Your Phoenix Feather brooch was sold this year at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels in Hong Kong much higher than the estimate…

– Yes, the Feather was sold, and some other jewels. I’m so excited that people like my new creations. They also define them as authentic and very artistic.

I’d like to remind to my readers that on May, 30, 2017 some of Cindy Chao’s pieces were sold at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels in Hong Kong. Particularly, Phoenix Feather brooch from Black Label collection was bought for $1 121 906, which is much higher than the estimate ($618 983–838 206).

Cindy Chao Ruby bow ring was sold for $128 955 on an estimate of $51 582–77 373.

Cindy Chao Ruby bow ring with a central diamond of 3,03 carats

Cindy Chao titanium earrings with emeralds and diamonds were sold for $812 415 on an estimate of $490 028–747 937.

Cindy Chao Snow Peas titanium earrings with emeralds of 29,49 and 26,81 carats and diamonds

You cooperate with auctions a lot, don’t you? 

– Not a lot, but we do it consistently.

Is this your strategy of business development?

– I can’t say it’s a strategy, but I think it’s an important platform for designers to introduce themselves for those, who don’t know them, or people, who already know, but wish to trace their development. For example, we started to cooperate with auctions in 2007, so people can see how we and our pieces have grown for the last 10 years.

You mean that they can see, so to say, the evolution of your pieces, and how their price has been changing.

– Right. We don’t participate every year, but we do that once every 2-3 years. It depends on the auctions and their approaches.

How do you find clients or how do they find you mostly?

– At the beginning it was difficult, but now clients actually come to us.

I will read you some phrases and you tell me if they are somehow connected to your life:

Once taking a risk, you can remain happy for the rest of your life.

– I agree. I think most people are afraid of taking risks, because they want to lead a safe, peaceful life. But I’m a risk taker. When you risk, you might be happy for the rest of your life, but sometimes you may also regret. So, you don’t know if you’ll win or lose, but it’s worthwhile. Everyone should take a risk when they are still young.

Art needs to be patronized. I mean someone should support art. For example, usually someone financially supports new artists. It can be a corporations or just an investor. Do you agree or not?

– I think it’s absolutely necessary. In jewellery industry the masterpieces are being created of rather expensive materials, so it’s impossible to grow bigger without strong financial support behind. Let’s take, for example, painters. Their materials don’t really cost much, but the final artistic value is extremely high. However, the way we create beauty is by means of precious stones. So, again, it’s impossible to grow without financial supporter.

Does someone support you?

– So far no.

Yeah, but before? I remember your story, but I mean did you have…

– We didn’t, but, luckily, we have collectors – true connoisseurs of our works.

Do your collectors support you?

– You should never mix friendship and partnership together. Moreover, they support us in a more efficient way – they buy our collections. Firstly, it’s a big encouragement for us, and secondly – it brings income, which allows us to continue creating.

What are your plans for the nearest future? 

– I think I will continue doing, what I do. In addition, I would like to go wider.

What do you mean?

– Creative design. I would love to expose myself in the Western side of the world for more people to have a chance to see my pieces and collections.

How success has changed your life? Because you are a successful person.

– I’ve always been a hard-worker, and success gave me a comfort life. It made me more relieved. I used to create jewellery to live, but now I create for my own delight. So, I think comfort is something that success brings into our lives.

During our life something happens by chance or due to our work. To your mind, how these things were balanced in your own life? Was it more by chance or because of your hard work?

– I think success will come along when you are ready. Therefore, it’s all by chance, but you should be well prepared for it.

What motivates you? Sometimes, when you have everything, you can lose sense of life. You have name, money, so why should you continue?

– You know, the biggest enemy is ourselves. Nobody knows us better, because everyone has a different definition of success. So, when you know that you can be better, why don’t you try to become a better person? For example, this morning I was at Ritz and I thought just before we started the show, “Oh my God, I adore Paris, I know people love my works here, but I can be much better.”

Cindy Chao
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Tatyana Pfaifer

The founder of Jewellery Masterpiece