At the tender age of 16, Wallace Chan began his extraordinary jewellery career as a gemstone carving apprentice. After just one year of learning and practice, he set up his own gemstone carving workshop in Hong Kong in 1974. When Chan works with gemstones something magical happens. It was his destiny, a true calling. For the next 40 years, he learned, practiced and gained an immense wisdom from his art. From painting, sculpture, engineering, metallurgy, and high jewellery design, Chan’s creations are an expression of pure passion. He is proud to be the first Asian artist invited to exhibit at a Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris, and TEFAF in Maastricht.
My destiny lies in jewellery. I learned paintings, I learned how to make sculptures, I also learned technical engineering and learned about gemstones. All these combined together led me to where I am today. When people look at jewellery they often focus on its value because it’s rare and precious, that’s why it comes with the high value. But jewellery is much more than that. After a piece of jewellery is discovered you apply craftsmanship, you apply design to wear it. It actually carries much more weight than paintings or sculptures because in one single piece of jewellery you need the expertise of craftsmanship, or metallurgy, or economic knowledge, or even understanding of colours. And a lot of people do not really appreciate that expertise behind everything that comes into the making of jewellery – Wallace Chan
Innovation is something Wallace Chan embraces in his jewellery making process. He works with a piece from designing to cutting, polishing, carving and setting, innovating his tools and techniques until he achieves extraordinary, out-of-this-world jewellery.
If he can’t find the right tool, Chan will buy three different machines, tear them open to understand the mechanics and rebuild them into one perfect tool for the job. The same is true with his materials. If gold is not working for his design, he’ll use a lighter metal like titanium to hold the beautiful stones in place, while fulfilling his ergonomic principles.
Wallace Chan is also a revolutionary gemstone setter. You won’t see conventional metalwork claws holding his gemstones in place. Instead, Chan has revolutionized this technique and uses the gemstones to set his diamonds. The result is a an architectural wonder on a micro scale.
The Wallace Cut is an illusionary carving technique that transcends dimensions
He is famous for his legendary 3D carving technique that he proudly calls the Wallace Cut. Invented in 1987 (the year I was born!), the Wallace Cut combines faceting and 360-degree intaglio to create fascinating, multi-line 3D engravings. Using multiple reflections, precise calculations and angle casting, these masterful trompe d’oleil continue to inspire sculptors and jewellery designers today.
The titanium material experiments
Wallace Chan’s titanium experiments have been a labour of love spanning eight years. Titanium is a difficult metal to work with, weighing only a fifth of gold, but it comes in a variety of colours, is eco-friendly, and incredibly strong. With titanium, Chan is able to create jewellery masterpieces that are light and comfortable to wear with an aesthetic that hides the underlying jewellery structure. It is advanced metallurgy and innovative jewellery-making.
I create the material; I don’t use something like gold, silver or steel because many people have already used this material for many years. Today I want to create a new material like titanium and even some new material. So I also have a workshop where I only create this material. To create such a material, you need to know the science behind each step of the process. – Wallace Chan
Revolutionary gemstone-setting-gemstone technique
Wallace Chan has honed the art of setting precious jewels using gemstones instead of the traditional claw setting method. This revolutionary method of gemstone setting minimizes the visibility of metal and brings the jewels into the spotlight. It gives his creations a magical feel, like jewels floating in the air.
Porcelain five times stronger than steel
Wallace Chan told me at GEM-A he’s about to unveil his latest innovation – porcelain five times stronger than steel. He has been working on the Wallace Chan porcelain for the better part of seven years, researching and experimenting. Porcelain is deeply rooted in Chan’s culture and history, but this new material is richer in colour, has an intense lustre, incredible strength and a contemporary spirit.
Very often these flashes of inspiration come from your memory, from your interaction with the world and anything out there. It could be a gemstone or piece of wood or any other type of material that will give you the concept or idea. Then at a later stage, they will be triggered and inspire you to create. – Wallace Chan
WHY I LOVE IT:
It was such an honour meeting Wallace Chan and I will always value my time spent with him. In a previous article, I wrote about the Wallace Chan Controversy, as genius like his is not readily embraced by everyone. But for me, he touches a chord in my heart that makes my Russian soul soar. Wallace Chan has to be the most innovative jewellery artist I have ever met. And he has the soul of a philosopher. His approach to work, his view of life and his endless love for jewellery-making is truly enchanting. His creation process draws inspiration from the gemstones created by Mother Nature over thousands of years. He gets lost in the wonder and beauty of the jewel, and loves to create objects the world has never seen. He will be remembered forever, as he continues to innovate and create historic jewellery pieces. Once you’ve laid eyes on his elaborate jewels, you’ll never forget them. He is a living legend.
When something breaks apart, it fails or does it? When a dream is abandoned, it fails or does it ? As a Master of Failures, I see failures as opportunities and possibilities. – Wallace Chan
Wallace Chan’s ‘Music on my Mind’ necklace with rare Burmese rubies, opals, pink sapphires and diamonds. It has lapis lazuli backing the opals to enhance their vibrancy, and blue topaz atop of the opal to protect it. Wallace Chan chose to marry the intense red of the Burmese rubies with the combined blue of the opals and topaz, because “people are excited by the red, and calmed by the blue.” The name alludes to the form of the necklace, with the titanium setting oscillating like sound waves in music, or indeed, as Wallace Chan himself described it, “Pulses, like a heartbeat.”
Intertwining Love Earrings
Two pieces of rosewood symbolizing healing, love, compassion, feminine grace, nobility and spiritual wisdom are sowed as the seeds of love. They grow from the earth as their titanium roots embellished with gemstones reach up to the sky.
Each earring has its own temperament, the one with a sapphire carries calmness and the one with a ruby embodies passion. The ultimate balance of one’s being is achieved through having both.
A high level of craftsmanship seamlessly combines materials that are different by nature as if they were naturally one.
Thanks for stopping by! What do you think of these jewellery works of art by Wallace Chan? Leave me a message in the comments below.
I am extremely happy to announce that my new jewelry book – GEMOLOGUE: Street Jewellery Styles & Styling Tips – is now on Amazon. I’m so excited. It’s the first book of its kind solely dedicated to jewellery.
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GEMOLOGUE jewelry blog by Liza Urla is a celebration of fine, fashion and vintage jewellery featuring talented jewellery designers, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews. This jewellery blog’s goal is to encourage and educate about jewellery online in a fresh and original fashion to inspire women and men across the globe in a fashion and travelling context.
Jewellery blogger, writer Liza Urla, the founder of GEMOLOGUE, is a London-based and NYC-educated gemologist, who has travelled to and lived in many countries. She is now one of the most influential digital jewellery tastemakers. Her jewellery influence has been acknowledged by Financial Times, The New York Times, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
*Photographed by Julia Flit. Styling and Art Direction by Liza Urla. All photos belong to GEM Kreatives for GEMOLOGUE.
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