Wallace Chan is a jewellery designer with staggering talent. He was recently featured on the BBC News website for his incredible gemstone artistry, which he has been perfecting since he first began training as an apprentice back in the 70’s. Even as a young man he was fascinated by how light and colour could pass through a carefully faceted stone and dreamed up ways of utilising it to create a unique kind of jewellery. At the age of 16 he took an apprenticeship with a sculptor in Hong Kong and embarked on decades of training that gave him the ability to make his dreams a reality.
Since that time he has created the Wallace cut, which takes advantage of the gemstone properties he recognised as a young man. The Wallace Cut takes a faceted stone and a design is carved into the back (the side that will be placed in a setting). This creates an image on the front face of the stone but also creates additional images thanks to the unique reflective properties of the gems. The final result is spectacular and it’s no surprise that Chan’s talents have bagged him some incredibly wealthy clientele. Chan can count celebrities and royalty amongst his happy customers.
Inspired By Nature
Whilst his interest in reflections caused him to develop the Wallace cut, Wallace Chan is also fascinated by the animal world. He comments on the difficulty in recreating the vivid colours one would find on the wing of a butterfly, even with the most vibrant gems imaginable. To compensate, one of his creation utilises real butterfly wings to impressive effect. He also utilises vivid colours to properly represent colourful creatures such as tropical fish, all to brilliant effect.
And whilst it’s clear that his personal philosophies and interests have helped him design such distinctive and artful jewellery, there is also a practical side to the popularity of Wallace Chan.
The Innovation of Wallace Chan
His website mentions that Wallace Chan is an important figure in fine art jewellery due to his dual interests in the traditional and innovative. Indeed, there are several techniques that can be attributed to him:
- The aforementioned Wallace cut.
- Perfecting methods of working and sculpting with titanium in jewellery.
- New setting techniques called the “diamond claw setting method” and the “inner mortise and tenon setting method”.
- New cutting and faceting techniques for jade jewellery.
His jewellery is undeniably stunning but his desire to implement new and experimental methods also assures that creations from Chan are one-of-a-kind. It’s important for all jewellery designers to find this balance between the traditional sphere of craft, which so regularly creates timeless accessories, and the impressive plethora of new techniques that are still being developed. Ignoring such innovations can be a dangerous move for jewellery crafters and I predict that the desire for jewellery that is distinctive in its creation as well as design will only grow in time.