Join the fastest growing Social Network Capmocracy today! Your trusted Social Network
This Porcelain Is Tougher Than It Looks

This Porcelain Is Tougher Than It Looks


Wallace Chan, the Hong Kong jeweler behind some of the world’s most exclusive gems, sat in a sunny Manhattan hotel room a few weeks ago, talking about his latest creations.

He displayed one, a large blue ring topped with a diamond — and began whacking it aggressively against the wooden coffee table.

Bang! Mr. Chan, 62, just smiled. Then he rapped it again.

The ring was primarily made of porcelain, a ceramic normally used for rose-strewn tea sets and figurines of pouting milkmaids, and such treatment should have reduced it to a handful of shards on the hotel room carpet.

But this wasn’t just any old porcelain. It was a porcelain seven years in the making, which Mr. Chan invented and which he says is five times harder than steel.

The material — called for the time being, a little unimaginatively, Wallace Chan Porcelain — is made of specially chosen ingredients that Mr. Chan treats like the equivalent of a state secret out of fear of industrial espionage (the jewelry world is, apparently, a paranoid place). But the ingredients are, he said, almost devoid of impurities.

Pieces are fired in one of his two custom-built German kilns, to about 1,650 degrees Celsius (3,000 degrees Fahrenheit), or about 200 degrees Celsius more than in the traditional process. The result is a dense, strong porcelain with an unusual shiny luster.

“What he has accomplished is very unique,” said Raquel Alonso-Perez, the curator of the Mineralogical & Geological Museum at Harvard, who saw Mr. Chan’s porcelain during the jeweler’s recent trip to several American cities to show it to friends and museums. “The fact that he can create something that has the look of porcelain and can be wearable, that’s not going to break — it’s not just something you can look at, but something you can wear — and it has that silky look that enhances the rest.”

Ms. Alonso-Perez paused and then added, “I could not believe.”

To introduce the material, Mr. Chan and his artisans created four pieces of jewelry that mix it with precious stones and titanium, the metal that has been a signature feature of his work for the last decade.

“Titanium is a space age metal,” he said, “and porcelain is a material that’s been around for the long time; so I wanted to combine them, to make a connection between the past and the present, leading to the future.”

He added, “The porcelain is the future.”

Along with the diamond-studded blue ring, there are a pair of earrings — bulbous balls of milky-white porcelain surrounding nearly 60 carats of South Sea pearls — and two more rings. One features a large hot-pink spinel on top of swirls of blush-color porcelain; the other, three bright-blue sapphires that appear to float on a delicate porcelain pod.

He did not bang them or try to crush them under his feet, but it’s not hard to imagine the impact if he had. His discovery, after all, has the potential to change the industry.

Not that that is why Mr. Chan pursued the project.

Porcelain’s ability to showcase intense color is, for Mr. Chan, part of its appeal. “Metal can’t always be the colors that I want,” he said. “That was one of the reasons why I decided to research porcelain, to get the colors that I want to use in jewelry.”

Mr. Chan’s fascination with porcelain began during his childhood in Hong Kong. His family was extremely poor, and he and three siblings shared one plastic spoon for meals, while the adults had porcelain ones.

“I wanted to touch them, so one day after dinner I got my hands on one,” he said. “Unfortunately, because there was still some oil on the spoon, I couldn’t really hold it properly and I broke it. That was a painful memory, but it really left such an impression in my mind.”

He began making jewelry as a teenager, initially training as a carver and opening his own workshop in 1974. By the late 1980s, he had developed the Wallace Cut, a method of carving cameo-like images into precious gemstones, a technique that brought him international acclaim. Often dissatisfied with the tools of his trade, he has developed numerous pieces of his own, like the customized dental drills that help him do precision work.

His jewelry creations have included an 11,551-diamond necklace for the Asian jewelry giant Chow Tai Fook, said in 2015 to be the world’s most expensive necklace, at $200 million. And he has a reputation, although never confirmed, for selling only to people he likes. (The names of some clients? Another secret.)

“He’s not your ordinary jeweler,” said Robert Weldon, the director of the library at the Gemological Institute of America, which in 2011 organized the first American display of Mr. Chan’s work at its museum in Carlsbad, Calif. “He’s broken absolutely all of the rules, and he does it in the most creative and beautiful manner.”

Certainly this is true of the new porcelain, which Mr. Chan plans to present to the public this year — most likely in November, venues to be announced — once he has finished a few more pieces.

He hasn’t determined the prices for any of the porcelain jewelry yet.

“If you are calculating your own creativity,” Mr. Chan said, “then you can’t create history.”



Source link

About The Author

Related posts

Leave a Reply