Gold and platinum wedding rings
One day, out of curiosity, Ben and Surzhanna pushed open the door of my workshop because they had a very specific idea in mind for their wedding rings. They wanted two particular lines to be clearly visible. The first being the outline of their profiles. They drew each other and wanted to immortalise these curves as engravings on the surfaces of the rings. The second line was a sonogram. Ben and Surzhanna recorded themselves singing a Russian song they both loved very much. The sound of their voices was then translated into an electromagnetic signal, also engraved upon the rings.
For their idea to take shape, I had to create contrast. The sonogram line was engraved on the outside of the wedding ring, cut from smooth platinum which overlapped hammered gold. The same principle applied to the inside of the ring. The profile’s curve was made out of platinum and is clearly visible thanks to the silver-gold contrast. This is how their atypical idea was translated into jewellery.
These wedding rings were among my last creations in Beijing. This city is very cosmopolitan and the history of Ben and Surzhanna is a perfect example of this multiculturalism. Surzhanna is Russian and used to work for the German fashion designer Kathrin Von Rechenberg. Benjamin is French and specialised in urban agriculture. By word of mouth within the expatriate community, Ben and Surzhanna heard about me and came to my workshop. Their wedding rings also symbolise the meeting of two cultures, the reunion of two souls that managed to find each other in a big world!
Platinum and tsavorite garnet ring
A person came into my workshop one day and asked me to design a ring for her. Sometimes, when I want to inspire a client, I usually look at the way they are dressed, their body language, the way they talk and behave. I show them pictures of jewellery I have already made too. This usually really helps people to have a better idea of the final piece. I showed this client a tsavorite garnet and she liked it very much. I took a pencil and a piece of paper to quickly sketch the shape of the ring. As she seemed to like this drawing, I put it into perspective and quickly framed the garnet with a copper wire so that she could have a better idea of the dimensions. Then I made a model and after my client was satisfied with it I set about making the jewellery. With this ring, I wanted to highlight the idea of opposing forces, a bit like the relationship between the forces of Yin and Yang.
I made this bracelet for Doris, a Chinese-American woman. Before she left Beijing to return to the United States, she wanted me to make a piece of jewellery for her in memory of our friendship. At that time, I was a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). I was teaching Chinese students how to find a theme, how to create a model from that theme, and from there, how to start creating jewellery. Doris had been admitted to my jewellery class shortly after she and her husband arrived in China. Our common interest in the same field and the fact that she was also an expatriate made us become good friends.
At that time, I was experimenting with shapes. I used to make sculptural jewellery that looked like birds' feet. Doris liked my work and that's why she asked me for an original creation. Knowing that she had a bit of a fighter’s personality — she enjoyed practicing boxing in her free time — and wanted a large piece of handmade jewellery on her arm without it being too heavy, I came up with the idea of this silver bracelet. I wanted to enhance both the industrial and organic aspect of it with curved square wires. Since the joints are soldered, this creative process was very close to that of calligraphy painting. I had to be focused and in the right rhythm to know where and when to weld the different wires together. If somebody asked me to make the exact same bracelet today, chances are I could not make an identical one.
Diamond and platinum ring
Dominique's husband had offered her a diamond, and after he passed away, Dominique wanted to turn this diamond into a piece of jewellery as a tribute to her husband. I made several drawings and models for Dominique before we came to this final result. Additional diamonds have been added to the ring and the whole structure is in platinum.
Brooch-pendant : Nick's flowers
Nicolas is British and organises trips to North Korea. Back in Beijing, his office was right behind my shop. Nick’s partner is an Italian journalist, the type of woman who’s always running around being super busy. As she is also a fervent feminist, Nicolas knew that a traditional proposal with a ring would have been the worst idea to ask for her hand. Instead, Nicolas asked me to create a gold, silver and diamond brooch-pendant. He wanted me to reproduce the flowers he draws himself when he leaves a paper note to his lady love.
Leather and silver bracelet
Antoine entered my shop by chance, just because he was passing by. He was all the more curious because his parents were jewellers too and his brother followed the same path. Antoine knew the world of jewellery very well but he decided to answer the call of the sea. Despite this he still likes handmade creations and is appreciative of beautiful objects. Antoine owns an old rig and the silver triangle of the bracelet represents the sail of his boat caught by the wind. The style of this bracelet is modern and composed of straight lines only.
Gold and opal ring
Jewellers are always afraid to work with opals for they are very beautiful but particularly fragile stones. This superb opal is now well protected! The idea was to achieve a balance of colours between all the different gems: diamonds, rubies and opal mounted on a golden ring. The curvy lines are meant to give the sensation of free movement, of something very natural. To create this ring, I proceeded as I always do. I started with a piece of material that I already had at hand, I played with it and observed what happened.
Platinum and pure gold wedding ring
Peng is an architect, he came to me with the idea of an inverted pyramid and we brainstormed together to work out how the project would work. The architectural rules he had in mind couldn’t in fact really be applied to jewellery. In the end, we agreed on two wedding rings that could be clipped together. The element in the centre is Gwen's ring, with the inverted pyramid on top that contains pure gold. Peng's ring is on the outside. Both rings are made of platinum.
Gold ring with 13 opals
When Cecile came into my shop, she handed me a small bag that contained 13 opals and said: "My grandfather brought these opals from Australia as a gift for my grandmother. I would like to do something with them, do you think it’s possible?" We had two options; either a complete set with earrings, pendant, necklace and bracelet or alternatively a relatively large ring. It was the second idea that Cécile chose. I made a model where I placed all the stones in wax so that we could better appreciate the volume and the weight. This ring is in gold, so it’s relatively heavy but yet easy to wear. When I showed the model to Cécile she loved the result. The right balance was found, despite the large number of stones, they all blend in well with the surrounding metal.
Platinum, fingerprint engravings and geometric patterns for the groom. Arabesque patterns and fingerprint engravings too for the bride. I made these wedding rings on the theme of complementarity. There is a mirror effect since some of the patterns on the groom’s ring can be found on the bride’s one, and vice versa.
Gold leaf fibula
Kathrin Von Rechenberg is a German fashion designer specialising in silk outfits. Sarah, her employee, was thinking of having a fibula on a dress about to be displayed for a fashion show. When she came to see me, Sarah already had a very clear idea in mind about the type of fibula she wanted. My job was to find the right materials. The gold leaf in the centre made the accessory stand out during the show, (a last minute change as I had to transform the fibula... into a necklace!) In the end, the accessory matched really well with the outfit since it was visible without being too prominent. Jewels for fashion shows are of a different standard. Given that the viewer is relatively far away from the model, the jewel can’t be too small. On the other hand, it can't be too big either, as to avoid making the garment stand out.
Wedding anniversary ring
This ring was a gift for a 40th wedding anniversary. The gems in the middle were emerald surrounded by aquamarines, oyster pearls and diamonds. The white pearl was relatively large and ovale-shaped. Because oyster pearls are a little fragile, mouting them on a ring was something rather unusual.
Crumpled gold bracelet
During my apprenticeship, my teacher was asked to copy a crumpled brass bracelet. He dismantled it to understand its structure and to make an identical version of it in gold. I had only been an apprentice for six months by then but that piece of jewellery stuck in my mind. A few years later, I decided to make a copy too but the final result was nothing like the original. That’s when I realised that memory and personality create filters. We think we can reproduce certain things while our perception prevents us from taking a neutral look at them in the first place. The first version I made of this bracelet was in silver. I was offered the opportunity to put it on display in a concept restaurant in Beijing (the Green Tea House). It turned out to be a good idea since I received several orders afterwards. One of the customers asked for a version in gold, it’s the one you see in this photo. This bracelet is made of a hand-crumpled metal sheet only.
Gold and coral brooch
This brooch was made using a technique that only a few jewellers know nowadays, called embossing. I started developing this technique in Vietnam and later on in China as well. In the Chinese province of Yunnan, in Xinhua Cun, the whole village used the embossing technique to create artefacts. It is not only an Asian technique, you can also find it in Africa, in America and in Europe. On our continent though, embossing became rarer after the 18th century. The process consists of creating shapes and volumes out of a metal sheet that is half a millimetre thick. The sheet is heated and then sculpted with a chisel, a tool designed to sculpt the metal and create impressions on the soft surface. Once the metal hardens, it becomes difficult to change its shape even when it is heated again. Therefore, more strength is required and this is where the difficulty of the technique lies.
As to how I got the idea for this brooch, I owe it to one of my clients in Beijing. I was selling my products in several markets and used to make a lot of jewellery out of iron and moonstones back then. One of my customers obviously liked them very much and tried to find me afterwards, without much success. Until one day she randomly stumbled upon my workshop. She came back two or three days after that with a piece of coral and gave me carte blanche for a creation. After several sketches and models, we agreed on this brooch. This piece of coral reminded me of locks of hair or head ornaments. In fact, the word jewellery in Chinese (shoushi) literally means head ornament. That’s where I took my inspiration from, then the work did the rest.
Earrings in white gold, yellow gold, diamonds and South Sea pearls
I designed the shape of these earrings so that the pearls in the centre were not fixed to the main structure. When Winnie saw them in my booth the first time, her eyes sparkled. She tried them on a few times but, in the end, she didn't buy them and walked away. The same thing happened a little later on three occasions. One day, I randomly came across Winnie and her husband on a street. After we started talking Winnie's phone rang and she got caught in a conversation. Since we were in early December, I discreetly slipped to her husband: "By the way, I know what gift Winnie would like for Christmas" ; )
Gold, silver and titanium fountain pen
For this piece I used an already-made nib and ink system as a base, but reshaped the pen’s body. Jewellery techniques can also be applied on everyday objects to adorn them.
Emerald, diamond and platinum art deco ring
Here is a classic piece of jewellery that I will never tire of. This art deco ring really allows its stone to stand out in a pure and simple way. Here, the traditional shape is respected. I simply added a little personal touch in the dynamics of the lines.
You and me ring in gold and diamonds
Here is a you and me ring made out of several other jewels. A client came to me with a mix of a mismatched earring, a gold ring, a wedding ring with diamonds and other broken pieces of jewellery. She wanted to know if it was possible to "recycle" all these valuable pieces into a brand new creation. The main difficulty of the work was the arrangement of stones of different sizes in a harmonious pattern. In the end, with a bit of imagination, sketches and models, the result came through.
Mother of Pearl, Opal and Titanium Necklace
I went to Shanghai to visit a friend on holiday and he gave me a piece of mother-of-pearl. This bluish polished shell is unique to New Zealand and comes from the abalone that live on the coasts. To make a necklace out of it, I thought it would be interesting to work with different shades of colour. Using a titanium wire, I assembled the mother-of-pearl together with an opal bead. After that, I heated the titanium to change its colour. This oxidation process creates iridescent shades that match with the two other elements of the necklace.
This is an aesthetic construction combining gold, silver, wood, titanium, amber and ruby with some diamonds and yellow sapphires. I started with a silver base called the socket, then built the ring around it by placing the different materials together one after the other.
Silver bracelet with titanium button
This piece is designed for men. The clasp consists of an elastic band fixed around the titanium button. This piece of jewellery is the second version of a bracelet used as a basis for future creations. Usually, the combination of customers’ requests and the mastery of certain techniques tend to trigger my inspiration. The creative process is empirical. There is what we learn at the beginning and what we learn on the way.