Oriental Contemporary Jewelry
Since 1880, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, streamlined style, and Minimalism of the Western world has almost defined the look of today’s jewelry. Over a hundred years have passed, the rising of Asian market and the rapid advance of 3D design and production techniques have brought about an unprecedented change in the world of jewelry. As part of the jewelry industry in the Eastern world, is it possible for us to give contemporary jewelry a different and new definition?
Designer Yi-Hsuan Lee believes that even in modern days, the aesthetic perspectives of oriental sculpture, calligraphy, and painting, such as “the essence of posture”, “the breath of lines”, and “the presence and absence”, can still provide contemporary jewelry with great nourishment.
Before answering the question, we need to first establish our own style. What kind of gem makes the best image for oriental jewelry? Jewelry mostly comprises about 30 kinds of common gemstones and metal materials including gold, platinum, silver, and titanium. Not merely is the variety of jewelry numerous to count, but its quality and consumer groups are of great difference. Therefore, vendors of a wide range of distinct specialties can be found in the jewelry market, running their own business in different ingenious way.
In this regard, Chun-Yuan Tan, the founder and CEO of LUMIN GARDEN, gives himself a mission to “create contemporary oriental jewelry that passes down culture, yet not to be restricted by tradition.” As the founder of a jewelry retail brand celebrated for its design, he contemplated profoundly on the path of clarifying the look of oriental jewelry. According to him, “only with local characteristics can a business make its mark in the global market and attain operational sustainability.”
How to define “oriental”? What makes people recognize a work is from the Orient at first sight? Is it the square character, the black and white ink painting, the sculpture of legendary creatures, the vermillion seal, the facial makeup of Peking Opera, the chopsticks for meals, the night lantern, or the intricately delicate embroidery?
In Chun-Yuan Tan’s view, it is true that the symbols and objects handed down from ancient times provide us with plentiful concrete materials for creation, some of which can instantly give out a visual impact after grafting onto gemstones to create an oriental ambience. To make this oriental charm long-lasting but not too old-fashioned or exaggerated, it is necessary that the concrete forms of these traditional objects be dismantled and reshaped; or, we ought to dig deeper into these cultural assets where the essence we need are buried inside the abstract connotation which is not easy to perceive.
What about “contemporary”? The essence of jewelry lies in its capability of being wearable and decorative, hence the designer’s original idea and the consumer’s wearing requirements will both be taken into account while designing, just like the double helix of DNA intertwined with each other. If unable to go with modern people’s dressing style, the jewelry may only be appreciated by few antique lovers and end up being home collection, not iconic enough to speak for an era. After several years of business experience, Chun-Yuan Tan found out that the jewelry market’s main spenders aging from 40 to 60 has been less likely to purchase the items of gaudy and showy style. Luxury is not the label of our time. Even as an extension of personal taste, people still care about how others feel when wearing jewelry. With the least intention to cause pressure among friends, they are more fond of simple designs.
Does wearing oriental jewelry necessarily make people look old? Must it be with strong ethnic feature? Faced with these questions, the chief designer of LUMIN GARDEN puts forward her own perspectives. Having learned calligraphy, Chinese painting, and oil painting since little and now mainly engaging in jewelry design and sculpture creation, she is able to rethink the aesthetic expression of jewelry through her interdisciplinary oriental background and the thorough training in calligraphy and painting.
Yi-Hsuan Lee believes that though art has many different forms, the expressive ways can be shared and applied to various fields. Through abundant thinking and constant trying, from sculpture, calligraphy, and painting, she extracted the three concepts of “the essence of posture”, “the breath of lines”, and “the presence and absence” as the aesthetic core values of her jewelry design.
“The Essence of Posture” in Jewelry
In the context of Mandarin, “the essence of posture” not only means the external bodily form, but contains the internal meaning. In other words, the subject’s personality, character, spirit, and the ambience are all involved. If “the essence of posture” is precisely grasped, the jewelry will definitely appear more vivid and brilliant.
“The Breath of Lines” in Jewelry
“The breath of lines” is a concept of traditional calligraphy theories. While writing, the ink creates space between characters and characters, strokes and strokes, and the density and sparsity along with the direction hence give rise to a unique sense of flow and rhythm. Applying the concept to jewelry design enables the lines of metal and the arrangement of gemstones to demonstrate a coherent and continuous rhythm just like dancing.
“The Presence and Absence” in Jewelry
In Yi-Hsuan Lee’s view, “the presence and absence” used in jewelry design can either refer to the purposeful preservation of space or the making of contrast. For instance, some parts of a piece are with complete exterior, and the other parts are intentionally made hollow to leave space; some parts are wholly mounted with gemstones, and the other parts are only bare metal exposed. With the distinction between “the presence and absence”, a piece of jewelry can own more diverse variability, creating a space for viewers to imagine.
Yi-Hsuan Lee’s profound ideas have provided jewelry design with a possibility ─ contemporary oriental jewelry can be more than just symbols and totems. Traditional culture has left us with numerous treasure which takes great efforts to delve into and extract. For the essence remained, the more abstract and intangible it is, the more possibility and flexibility it would possess, and hence the more capable it will become of creating a new prospect in this ever-changing world.