n recent years, China has made a name for itself on the jewellery scene. Among those who have led the way are Michelle Wong, Wallace Chan (who made headlines when he first appeared in Paris at the Biennale des Antiquaires in September 2014) and Cindy Chao, whose creations can be found in the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Some younger designers are following them into the limelight. One standout name is that of 26-year-old Gearry Suen, who in 2019 launched jewellery brand G-Suen in London with co-founder Jing Zhao. While Gearry Suen creates, Zhao does everything else, including looking after the business.
After graduating from Central Saint Martins with a degree in jewellery and design, Gearry Suen went on to complete a master’s degree in jewellery at the Royal College of Art in London. He is one of the up-and-coming jewellery designers who deserves closer attention. At the age of 26 he has already received three awards, including the prestigious Goldsmiths’ Company Award in May 2021 for his ‘Conversation’ earrings.
At the age of 26, Gearry Suen has already received three awards, including the prestigious Goldsmiths’ Company Award in May 2021 for his ‘Conversation’ earrings.
Born in Northern China close to the Russian border, he arrived in the UK at the age of 18. He is part of a multi-cultural generation at ease in a globalised and digitised environment. His jewellery is a bridge between Eastern and Western culture, and between different eras of history. It is the projection of a possible future that relies heavily on the past.
During the last GemGenève jewellery show his creations, all unique pieces, were displayed in the Vivarium, curated by the famous writer and jewellery historian Vivienne Becker.
While studying at the Royal College of Art he had access to virtual reality programs, which he learned to use to express himself with complex and surrealist forms, a dreamlike mix of decorative arts and science fiction. But while he uses 21st century tools, he is also familiar with age-old jewellery traditions. He sculpts his pieces himself, in wax, before having them cast in gold, titanium or whatever material best embodies the spirit of the piece.
While he uses 21st century tools, he is also familiar with age-old jewellery traditions. He sculpts his pieces himself, in wax, before having them cast in gold, titanium or whatever material best embodies the spirit of the piece.
“We live in a digital world, we come from China and we work in the West, we use traditional skills and modern materials, such as titanium or aluminium,” explains Jing Zhao. “With our brand, we connect the past, the present and the future, the digital and the analogue. We are bringing something new to the world of jewellery: powerful, unique pieces that use a mix of traditional and contemporary materials and express our vision of the world. We are young, but we don’t want to abandon tradition for innovation.”
This is why the duo relies on the best artisans, people who master the skills required to make their unique pieces.
“The creative process is a long one,” explains Jing Zhao. “Gearry starts by making a drawing. Then we ask ourselves what kind of woman would wear this piece of jewellery. We think about the customer from the beginning. We already have a handful of young collectors who buy our pieces. Then we imagine the whole creative process: how much the piece will cost, where it will be produced, who will be able to make it, how long it will take to complete and when we will be able to exhibit it.”
She continues: “Gearry creates the shapes in wax: he is the only one who can transform his 2D drawings into 3D. We found a workshop in London that makes prototypes. We then turn to the best craftsmen. When we need goldsmiths, we look for them in Europe, because that’s where they are, but if we need a jade carver, we turn to China, where the culture of jade carving evolved. The same goes for sandalwood carving. As for titanium, we explore various places in Europe. It is the drawing that guides us to this or that workshop. That is the origin of the whole journey.”
“We are young, but we don’t want to abandon tradition for innovation.”
If you want to gain a better understanding of the brand’s philosophy, you should take a very close look at the Ren earrings in yellow and white oxidised gold, featuring flowers set with custom-cut kite-shaped diamonds. At first glance, they look like the branches of a tree adorned with flowers. But to grasp the deeper meaning, you have to understand the Chinese characters.
“The left earring is structured according to the sinogram meaning ‘being human’. The right earring is based on the reverse character, which can be interpreted as ‘being elevated’,” Jing Zhao explains. “Representing harmony between humanity and universe, according to Chinese philosophy, these symbols have also been depicted in alien crop circles.”
Where do humans come from? Neither these earrings nor their jeweller can answer this eternal question. But that doesn’t mean the question is not worth asking. Repeatedly.