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The Imagineer
Style Profile

Perhaps it’s not surprising Wallace Chan’s jewelry is sculpture: his first medium was ivory carving. After adding cameo and intaglio carving and gem faceting to his repertoire, he made his first conceptual leap into jewelry innovation. In the 1980s, he invented a new style of reverse carving within faceted gemstone that uses reflections within the gemstone to add dimension to his carved subjects. A few years ago, he began experimenting with metal work in order to combine gems and metal into one organic whole.

“I don’t want to just create jewelry that features a lot of expensive stones set in an appealing way,” Chan says. “I want to create light and movement, juxtapose living things with still objects, or place them in a dreamy, myth-like world. I want dramatic pieces, jewelry that never ceases to amaze the beholder. I strive for fluidity, movement, changing light.”

Chan developed new ways of working with titanium, carving and casting it to create large intricately detailed pieces that are light and comfortable to wear. A larger than life cicada, with delicate iridescent wings carved in rock crystals, clasps a diamond between its front legs. Real butterfly wings are encased in luminous stone. Fish curve to jump out of a carved wave. Chan’s pieces freeze moments of life in titanium and gems.

“A piece of jewelry is a sculpture with a jewel skin,” says Chan. “Gold or platinum is its conventional bone structure. Titanium reduces the weight, which often is the chief design constraint. Now we can paint, collage, inlay, and set as many patterns and colors as we imagine.”

In terms of jewelry engineering, titanium’s higher tensile strength means smaller clasps and claws are needed to set or inlay gems. Chan also considers ergonomics in his design, so that a titanium “bone” curves and slides in order to ergonomically fit a human neck, wrist, or finger.

The result is breathtakingly scaled, large and light, art jewelry or jewelry art. First previewed in Basel, the complete new Wallace Chan collection will launch at the Hong Kong Watch & Jewelry Fair in September. — Cheryl Kremkow

All jewelry by Wallace Chan of Hong Kong, (011) (852) 2311-8877.