Jewellery designer turns precious coral into a moneyspinner
with Andrew Sun. Additional reporting by Clara Mak and Phoebe Cheng.
They are marine treasures you're not supposed to touch on diving trips, but designer Francois Loffredo has made a career turning coral into valuable jewellery.
The Italian opened his first boutique in the city last Friday in Prince's Building, followed by a dinner with VIP clients at the Mandarin Oriental.
As he is quick to tell us, his clients can't get enough of the fantastically coloured works.
'We did make a few special pieces to celebrate our Asian flagship store opening but they were sold out within the first hour of business,' Loffredo (right) said.
'They were big coral pieces so it's impossible to find the exact same thing again and very difficult to reproduce another even close to the originals.
'In Italy it is a tradition to use coral in jewellery but our designs are much more extravagant.
'We were the first house to apply laser technology to the production process to ensure corals can be combined flawlessly with gemstones or diamonds.
'Each piece is unique because there will not be another identical coral which can be fitted into exactly the same design.'
Lest you think it's not politically correct to wear an environmentally endangered habitat, the designer emphasises that he's not been taking a hatchet to protected coral reefs.
'There is no worry about the future supply of corals because we have been keeping the best pieces for ourselves for decades and we have an abundant supply in hand for future use.'