The year of the rat brings many charming rodent designs into the world of luxury. Top watch brands from Panerai to Vacheron Constantin have released elegant timepieces featuring the Chinese zodiac’s first animal. Independent jewellers such as Alighieri Jewelry and iconic global ones such as Faberge have also crafted auspicious rat-themed pieces for the growing Chinese market.
Festive jewellery for 2020 can be flamboyant or minimalist – depending on whom you ask. Michael Koh of Caratell, award-winning jeweller to the rich and royal, says: “For this Chinese New Year, we have quite a few customers looking into bespoke jewellery with multiple usages, such as an earring that can turn into a brooch or pendant, or a ring that can be detached to become a pendant. This allows the wearer to have the flexibility to change the look of the jewellery to suit their wardrobe.”
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Caratell’s striking festive pieces include an 18k white and yellow gold Lion Dance ring adorned with rubies and diamonds, a symbol of power, wisdom and good fortune. Also exquisite is a pair of 18k white and yellow gold earrings with tassels, bedecked with corals and diamonds, signifying luck and success. It would look stunning with a qipao.
Jade and jadeite continue to be popular gemstones, seen as conferring beauty and nobility to the wearer. Mr Koh says: “We’re seeing an increase in demand for jadeite items, but with a youthful and modern twist.”
Longtime designer Marilyn Tan of Marilyn Tan Jewellery says: “More and more people returning to modern, clean, minimalist interpretations of traditional stones like jade – a twist on old traditions. Just as the qipao today tend to feature non-traditional fabrics, my jewellery clients are more frequently looking for modern-cut pieces of jade in non-traditional shapes such triangles, squares or rhombuses, and in non-traditional colours such as dark grey, lilac, black (or rather very dark green) and ice (white) – even though the traditional green still holds its appeal.”
Her latest collection includes rectangular jade bangles and earrings with rounded corners, reflecting the unbreakable bonds of love and family ties.
Minimalism also characterises Alighieri’s collection of Chinese zodiac medallions. Founder Rosh Mahtani, who’s based in London, says: “Our range of zodiac medallions attracts a lot of Asian buyers buying their animal signs and layering them with their exciting heirlooms. But we’ve also seen great interest from buyers in London, America, Australia and Europe who are fascinated with Chinese culture and symbolism, and enchanted by the animals of the Chinese zodiac.” Alighieri pieces are available on Net-A-Porter, Farfetch and other online portals.
Younger Singapore jewellery brands such as Gioia Fine Jewellery and Madly Gems are certainly not shy about bringing on the bling. The latest Chinese New Year bespoke creation by Madly Gems, founded by radio deejay Maddy Barber, is a commissioned brooch that doubles as a pendant. It features two rare mandarin spessartite garnet of the most vivid orange colour, for luck.
“Garnet as a stone is also an ancient symbol of friendship, and was exchanged between parting friends to symbolise their affection and to ensure that they meet again – definitely an auspicious gem for the coming together of family and friends during Chinese New Year,” explains Ms Barber, who founded the brand in 2014.
Meanwhile, the three-year-old Gioia Fine Jewellery is rethinking jade with pieces that combine the smooth sheen of jade with the conspicuous glitter of gold and diamonds. Its icy jade earrings, for instance, are held by a cluster of vivid red spinels for their gorgeous contrast. Similarly, its icy jade dragon ring features an ice jade stone dramatically flanked by the fangs of two dragons, a symbol of power.
But if the rat – rather than the dragon – is what you’re after, there’s also Faberge’s Palais Tsarskoye Selo red locket which opens to reveal a solid 18k yellow gold rat with dazzling diamond eyes. The locket is crafted from 18k yellow gold, decorated with 15 round brilliant diamonds and hand-painted with vibrant red guilloche enamel for luck and prosperity. The iconic Russian jeweller plans to unveil new lockets with all the different animals of the Chinese zodiac in the coming months.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.
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