Cindy Chao’s butterfly and peony dreams take flight at world-renowned museums
Celebrated contemporary high jewellery artist made history by having three masterpieces inducted into the permanent collections of The Smithsonian, Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
A legacy in the making
Stewards of culture, museums collect, conserve, and communicate heritage through exhibitions and display, making cultural heritage, in all its expressions, forms and dimensions, accessible to all. Through their visits, museum-goers can go on a cultural journey, marvel at the exhibits and draw inspiration from the past that informs the future.
When appropriate, museums induct unique contemporary pieces that they consider an invaluable object in the future.
So, for Chao to have three one-of-a-kind museum pieces is a testament to the historical importance and artistic virtuosity of her exquisite wearable art created with meticulous craftsmanship that harkens from the past. By hand sculpting in wax every design sketch during the initial creative process, Chao brings the essentially lost wax carving technique initiated by royal jewellery craftsmen in the 18th century into the 21st century.
And, as the first Asian jeweller inductee, she is forging a legacy that looks certain to stand the test of time.
Hallmark butterfly brooch debuts at The Smithsonian
It takes pride of place among 2,500 exhibits, including the famous 45.52-carat deep-blue Hope Diamond, the centrepiece of the gallery collection that comes with a colourful history dating back to at least the 1660s. Also present is the Star of Asia, a magnificent, 330-carat cabochon-cut star sapphire originating from the Mogok mines of Burma and said to have once belonged to the Maharaja of Jodhpur.
Composed of 2,328 glistening gems totalling 77 carats, the whimsically beautiful jewelled butterfly is set with fancy-coloured and colour-changing sapphires and diamonds, rubies, and tsavorite. The centrepieces of the butterfly’s wings are four large-faceted diamond slices stacked atop a pave layer of faceted diamonds, creating a pattern resembling the microstructure and scale of a living butterfly’s wings.
Second butterfly brooch flutters into Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Commenting on the induction, Dominique Forest, Chief Curator at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, said, “This butterfly brooch from Cindy Chao is in the continuity of animal themes dear to the history of jewellery, while renewing it with the suggestion of flight and the very refined and complex scaling of the rubies and diamonds paving.”
Depicting a butterfly that has just emerged from its cocoon, the brooch features a pair of bold non-heated baroque Burmese rubies surrounded by bright fancy-coloured diamonds and colour-changing sapphires in an ultimate expression of Chao’s creativity.
Peony brooch blooms at the Victoria & Albert Museum
This is where the 2018 Black Label Masterpiece XVIII “Peony Brooch” now resides. Another virtuoso celebration of nature’s beauty, the bold and dynamic brooch is set entirely with over 3,000 rubies and diamonds on a petal-like structure created in titanium. The colour of the titanium was then transformed, through anodisation, into resplendent purple hues designed to perfectly complement and celebrate the vivid depths of the red rubies. The Peony’s pistils, with a powdered and gradient yellow hue, perfectly contrast with the petals. Awarded “Outstanding Object” at Masterpiece London 2018, the Peony Brooch is a fitting addition to the V&A, where it sits alongside historically significant pieces. They include treasures such as the Heneage (Armada) Jewel that Queen Elizabeth I gave to her courtier, the diamonds that belonged to Catherine the Great of Russia, and the emerald jewels given by French emperor Napoleon to his adopted daughter.
With pandemic-induced travel restrictions lifting (for now) in these three world capitals, jewellery and art lovers heading there should make it a point to view these masterpieces in such a prestigious setting.