Romancing the Stone

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2006, 12:00am

Jewellery designer Michelle Ong Cheung's eye for style and unique feminine sensibility has captured the hearts of women from around the world. She shares her stunning personal collection of bijoux.

Not one to follow trends, jewellery designer Michelle Ong Cheung creates them. With her razor-sharp eye for style and enviable ability to carry highly unusual, show-stopping designs, Cheung's personal collection is full of surprises and is nothing short of spectacular.

'I come from a medical family and they are not into jewellery at all,' Cheung says. 'But I've always loved beautiful things, be it paintings or clothes.' Her greatest passion, however, is reserved for jewellery and design because 'gems are kept for eternity'.

'The most important thing is to have your own flair and be comfortable,' says Cheung, unveiling a striking 1970s Piaget watch in turquoise and black enamel. 'It doesn't have to be expensive and you don't need to have lots of it. I'm interested in different styles and designs rather than the stone or the value of a piece as a status symbol. I started collecting 70s watches at a time when they weren't so popular. But since I started wearing them, people have been coming up to me with offers to buy them! It just goes to show it's not always about a lot of money, but design.'

Like her designs for Carnet, the jewellery brand she created in 2003 with business partner Avi Nagar, Cheung's collection is characterised by a bold sense of style and feminine sensibility. A fusion of east and west, Cheung's talent has caught the eye of Hollywood - she was invited to design jewel pieces for the forthcoming release, The Da Vinci Code, based on the best seller by Dan Brown. However, her personal collection is slightly more eclectic and demonstrates the designer's fondness for period designs from the 20s.

'I'm a big fan of pieces from the 20s, for the concentration on design and workmanship,' Cheung says. 'I admire the thought, time and effort invested in those pieces and I'm strongly connected to the idea of a 'wearable art form'. It's no coincidence that 20s designs, passed on from generation to generation, have remained the most valuable to this day.' To illustrate her point, Cheung holds up a stunning art deco jadeite and diamond necklace. 'As you can see with this necklace, the jade doesn't need to be of the highest quality, yet it's transformed into a beautiful piece of art. But if rich, deep-coloured jade were used, the necklace wouldn't look half as good.

This shows the power of design.'

Cheung moves on to a stunning jadeite, gold and diamond necklace, offset with emerald-green jade beads that glisten against the light. 'These are imperial jade beads with old carvings that have long been 'extinct',' she says. Like the majority of her personal collection, this piece was acquired from an auction in Europe.

Reflecting on her style, Cheung says, 'I'm a career woman. I work full-time, so I have a day range for work. I also have pieces for cocktails and formal occasions that are more over the top.' Her final piece of advice completes her philosophy on jewellery: 'Jewellery first, then the gown. That's the way it should be, not the other way round.'

1. Original Buccellati necklace with gold-leaf motif and pearl insets.

2. Art nouveau glass pendante Ovale-guepes by Rene Lalique, circa 1920, combined with a knotted green silk necklace and tassel.

3. Art deco jadeite and diamond sautoir with dragon motif, circa 1930.

4. Carved jadeite beads circa 1790, reset in a gold and diamond necklace.

5. Pendant pin in silver and gold, composed of a green jade disc, with oriental pearl tassel, emerald button pearls and diamonds.

6. 1970s watch in turquoise and black enamel by Piaget.

7. Vintage Cartier watch.