Hong Kong jeweller dazzles with a showcase of his best creations

Wallace Chan recollects the iconic pieces that have defined his career, as he launches a book and exhibition

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 November, 2015, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 November, 2015, 9:01pm

Wallace Chan has a reputation for artistic jewellery. Now the Hong Kong-based craftsman has launched his first book, Dream Light Water, and a jewellery art exhibition with the same name at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Showcasing 86 intricate and technically innovative pieces, Chan’s publication is an illustrated monograph, encapsulating the best of his creations. Thirty of these pieces, many of which are borrowed from collectors, will be on show at the exhibition.

Chan says the word “dream” in the title refers to his desire to create beautiful pieces, “light” alludes to the way each gemstone comes to life when illuminated, and “water” symbolises his creativity and the way it constantly flows and changes with time.

The idea for his book started seven years ago, but, as one might expect from a man who has dedicated his whole life to his craft, the quality, imagery and paper stock had to be perfect.

“In today’s age, no one needs to read books any more because you can find everything on the internet. So why create Dream Light Water? I wanted something that could stand the test of time, a record of what I’ve done in my 43-year career.”

Published by Rizzoli New York, the book features close-up images and life-sized photographs of Chan’s creations. Alongside essays by jewellery historian Juliet de La Rochefoucauld and Chan, the book is packed with vivid colours that will give viewers an ever greater appreciation for the minute details in Chan’s work.

“I’ve put my heart and soul into this book, and my hope is that people feel that when they read it, or come to the exhibition,” says Chan.

Getting the photography right was a long and arduous process.

“The photography process was not something that happened overnight, and there were several challenges. First, it was very difficult to find the right photographer. I tried working with several, each bringing their own style, requirements and aesthetic. Although I learned a lot from all the photographers, I wasn’t satisfied with the end result.

“I decided that I needed to learn about photography, too, and spent four years studying the subject. This involved everything from looking at the different results from different lenses, understanding how the camera works, using a magnifier to make sure the smallest details are captured, and assessing the different printing results.”

“Out of all the elements, one of the most difficult was the lighting. Lighting is especially tricky with jewellery because of the reflections and refractions inside the stones. So not only do you have to worry about the angle of the light, but also the intensity and quality.”

Time was not considered an important factor. What was crucial to him was to create the best quality work. He doesn’t mind if his team spends one or two full days shooting just one piece.

“One time we spent almost 14 days photographing one piece – to make sure we got the right angle and captured the work perfectly,” Chan says.

This meticulous approach that Chan has brought to the book will also be reflected in the exhibition. From lighting and showcase design to exhibit display, Chan is ensuring that every detail of the event is flawless.

One of Chan’s pieces on display is “Now and Always”. The necklace features a stunning aquamarine pendant and an engraving of Horae, a Greek goddess of the seasons. What is special about this piece is Chan’s use of the pioneering Wallace Cut, a special three-dimensional cutting technique he invented which results in five reflections of the one engraving.

Another stunning piece is a brooch named “Forever Dancing”. The construction of the piece involved sealing an actual butterfly specimen in rock crystal, and embellishing the design with yellow diamonds, mother of pearl and garnet. The piece holds a lot of meaning, with butterflies in traditional Chinese culture symbolising everlasting love.

“Making this piece was very tricky, not only because of the delicate wings of the butterfly, but because the colourful scales of the wings can come off quite easily. So it was important that we handle each piece delicately.”

With Hong Kong as his first stop, Chan is looking forward to promoting Dream Light Water through exhibitions and talks around the globe including Paris, New York, London, Beijing and Taiwan. Through his work, Chan hopes his pieces will not only inspire others but show the virtues that come from the humble qualities of patience and hard work.