It can be noted that there is still a fair amount of work to do in order to overcome the inequalities between men and women in the world of work. Currently, even if women such as Hillary Clinton and Amal Clooney amongst other celebrities help influence society, they are not truly representative of all women.

If women such as Fabienne Maury (Diptyque), Jacinthe Brillet (T.O by Lipton) or Ronit Raphaël (L.Raphael) seem to be changing the status quo, one cannot deny that women represent a mere 4% of CEOs from La Bourse Stock Exchange listed companies. Furthermore, the report teaches us that only 15% of working women hold executive roles or intellectual professions, compared to 20% of men – all within the knowledge that it is 1.5% more likely that a man is in an intellectual profession rather than another type of job. Following our series « Interviews with the Actors of Luxury », in which the Presidents of various businesses express their vision of digital media & marketing, we became aware that women were barely present at the head of large businesses.

Due to this realisation, we have decided to give women, holding various positions in diverse professions, the chance to have their say. For our series « The Position of Women in Luxury », here is internationally renowned jewellery artist, Cindy Chao, giving her point of view :

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Your identity as an artist

Baptiste Riffard : Could you introduce yourself in a few words?

I consider myself creative, persistent, and patient when creating.

I have a lot of patience for allowing creativity to turn into artwork, creativity to fuel my imagination, and persistence to push myself with my passions.

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Baptiste Riffard : How did you end up a Jewelry Artist?

As a child, I was surrounded by creativity and most of my days were spent with two masters. My grandfather was a noted architect whose many works are now considered historical monuments, and my father was a sculptor. My grandfather would always take me to the construction sites of his architectures, therefore I was trained from a young age to see the world in a structural and spatial, 3dimensional way.

As my father’s first apprentice, he taught me to take into account each angle, form and expression of what I observe, and transform observations into well-rounded creations.

In fact, as a young adult, I aspired to be an architect like my grandfather. It was my mother who gave me a push to use my creative talent into a professional that she felt more feminine.

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Baptiste Riffard : What motivated you to become a Jewelry Artist?

I am very fortunate because I was not trained “inside the box”. Instead I have a very different approach when creating a piece of art jewel that is through sculpting an one-to-one real size wax model.

The path of jewellery design is one of solitude and adversity

As my grandfather and father taught me, a true piece of art transcends through time, and the ones that survive would leave an impact for generations. With a well trained eye for natural beauty, I found a way to incorporate my father and grandfather’s teachings into my art jewels today. Sometimes, I would finish a wax model but leave it for weeks or months before coming back to it. It’s because I want to see if I would still feel emotional and connected with the work. How could my works touch people’s hearts for the next 50 years, if I don’t feel the passion myself?

As my grandfather and father taught me, a true piece of art transcends through time, and the ones that survive would leave an impact for generations. With a well trained eye for natural beauty, I found a way to incorporate my father and grandfather’s teachings into my art jewels today. Sometimes, I would finish a wax model but leave it for weeks or months before coming back to it. It’s because I want to see if I would still feel emotional and connected with the work. How could my works touch people’s hearts for the next 50 years, if I don’t feel the passion myself?

In the end, I believe it is the emotion that is encapsulated in each work that continues to motivate me every day, and reminds me that I create jewels for people to collect, appreciate, and become part of their life stories. It is a very powerful driving force.

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Baptiste Riffard : Which qualities are the most important in becoming a Jewelry Artisan?

Among many qualities, I believe perseverance is the most essential.

The path of jewellery design is one of solitude and adversity. There are always challenges rising – it could be a technical difficulty, a problem with sourcing the perfect gemstones, the constant questioning from outside and from within. One must have a strong mind and grit to stay focus, and never give up.

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Baptiste Riffard : You mix tradition and modern style in your artworks. Where does this inspiration and influence come from?

I mix my lineage, creativity, and passion into my artwork. My inspiration stems from my surroundings, experiences, as well as my love for nature. Nature is mesmerizing because it is always in the passing, every evanecent moment subtle and pure. For me, capturing these Fleeting moments in the form of art jewels is a pleasure and inspirational process.

I am also inspired by my travels, where I experience new cities and fresh people – walking in the streets and taking in all the sculptures in Florence, visiting Grand Mosque of Bahrain, admiring Gaudi’s architectures in Barcelona….visual impact and cultural experiences are extremely important for any creative mind, and the diversity that traveling has to offer has certainly broaden my horizon.

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Women in luxury

Baptiste Riffard : You founded your company, Cindy Chao the art jewel in 2004.To get there, Which were the major difficulties that You had to overcome?

Is it easier as a woman in this business or more difficult? Why? Do you feel that the expectations are higher since you are a woman, an artist and run your own enterprise?

I grew in love with jewellery design, and I have continued faithfully on this path for 12 years. On this journey, I face adversities on a daily basis, it’s a battle between my strive for perfection, and my imaginative gander. There are endless possibilities in the creative world, but to materialize these creative visions, we must be able overcome technical difficulties.

When I made my first piece out of Titanium after two years (more than 10,000 hours) of handcraft, I felt a sense of liberation for I am able to explore with new mediums has allowed the Masterpieces I have to offer today.

Baptiste Riffard : Which are your working methods with your team?

Which are the steps in creating such pieces of art?

My working method involves a close-knit communication system. When I have a vision for an upcoming piece, everyone is on board to make the image in my mind come to life. Ever team has a task, and they work in sync to make the impossible possible. We work with efficiency, and perseverance; as a web of pulsing creativity.

Ever team has a task, and they work in sync to make the impossible possible

Through the creative process, I have many identities. Being a sculptor was part of my family heritage and comes naturally to me. My grandfather chose concretes and architecture, and my father clay, to be their forms of expression; I have chosen precious gemstones to be my creative form of expression. In addition to being able to sculpt my ideas through wax, I must consider every aspect from the structure of the piece, the setting and aesthetic, to the composition of gemstones that will allow maximum lighting to pass through, the wear-ability and functionality of a piece. Therefore I am the artist, architect and the engineer.
My design process is laborious but extremely rewarding, as we are involved in all the details from design, wax moulding, setting, to the final production. The typical design process starts first with my inspiration, and then I hand-carve and sculpt the wax model. The benefit of wax sculpting is I can carve the curves, the undulations, layers and the silhouette that I want my pieces to take form. On the wax, I can structure the piece in detail from every angle, giving it the rich depth that a simple design sketch could never contain.

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Once the wax models are completed, we create sketches to help the diamond setters and master craftsmen to visualize the coloration of the final art jewel. We also have an internal team of certified gemologists selecting diamonds and gemstones for the art jewels. For instance, we only select diamonds of DEF colors and VS and above grade clarity, in addition, the cut grade, symmetry, and polish are also criteria we take into consideration. Only about 10% all diamonds examined could eventually be used on a CINDY CHAO art jewel.

The wax models, sketches, and selected diamonds and gemstones would then be sent to our exclusive ateliers in Europe. The master craftsmen transform the wax into gold, silver or titanium, and go on spending months to years’ time to set thousands of gemstones. We are very fortunate to work with these master craftsmen who have the experience and technique to bring my creations to the next level; they are also very excited to be working with me because my creations challenge them to think outside the box of this century-old craft. I travel to Geneva and France to visit the ateliers almost every other two to three weeks. It is very important that I be there, see and feel the pieces during the progress, and brainstorm with the craftsmen – it is very rewarding to feed off of each other’s energy and ideas, and bring forth the beautiful works of art.

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Luxury & jewelry 

Baptiste Riffard : How would you define luxury?

I define luxury as being able to have time for the things I have passion for, and to be able to devote all the time I desire to this passion. I enjoy my luxurious freedom to dream, I enjoy personal time to create art, and I enjoy the luxury of traveling.

Baptiste Riffard : According to you, do men and women have a different approach to luxury?

Luxury can be defined differently by everyone. For women, I think they see luxury items such as jewellery as prized possessions. In my art jewels, women see the intricate craftsmanship and the beauty of detail. They will consider collecting my pieces based on how the piece makes them feel. As for men, they often see luxury items as an investment, and see the value in the piece. Men would collect my designs based on the value they put on the piece. I do believe that, both men and women see luxury as a form of enjoyment; having the time to enjoy a certain thing puts great value on this item.

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Baptiste Riffard : Your Royal Butterfly got placed in Smithsonian Museum. What were your insights on that event?

I believe that a piece of jewelry can reflect the history of an era, as my brand evolves, and improves I think my techniques can be recorded as a breakthrough in craftsmanship. My work adopted into a leading institution such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is the highest of honors. It is humbling to know that, the gemstone usage, unique design and craftsmanship of the 2009 Black Label Masterpiece Royal Butterfly Brooch were recognized now, and will be preserved to be seen by  7 millions of visitors each year for generations to come.  I hope each viewer takes away a personal experience after viewing my art jewels.

Baptiste Riffard : Every year, you design a new Black Label Masterpiece Butterfly. What does the butterfly represent to you? Why did you choose this symbol?

I especially adore the butterflies because even though their life span is fleeting, they have so many different facades of beauty, and they undergo several teres of transformations. This metamorphous is one I have undergone as an artist, transforming and pushing myself to create and share something pure and beautiful, pushing limits to give life to something even more spectacular than the last creation. Through my creations, I want people to feel the life and emotions gleaming from each of my art jewels ; to experience a fleeting lifespain of a butterfly in still-life.

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Baptiste Riffard : How do you see your career as a woman in the luxury business?

I see my career as ever-developing in this business, with the goal that each proceeding piece is better than its previous one. I have stuck with my passion for 12 years, and the road ahead can be seen as promising and rewarding. My brand and business will continue its growth, with the hopes of sharing my art jewels to all those who have an eye for luxury and beauty.

Luxury & you

Baptiste Riffard : What are your next goals in the future?

The goals for the future entail, to continue my path as a jewellery artist; each year perfecting my craftsmanship, each year putting forth my best pieces of art jewels. I will direct my passion towards creating new masterpieces of luxury and beauty. With this year’s invitation to the Biennale, our horizons have expanded endlessly. The company will continue to grow, and with our expanding team, we aim to portray the true essence of CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel, to collectors around the globe.

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Baptiste Riffard : Which are the luxury moments for you?

Moments which I consider luxurious for me is having time to enjoy things I have a passion for. Quite often the business gets busy and traveling becomes a necessity. One of the most enjoyable, relaxing moments in my life is the calm, quietness of long distance flights. Where I am alone with my mind and free to reconcile on the past weeks.

These moments along allow for deeper thoughts, without the distraction of the bustling world around me. Another time I find a peace of mind is after I land at my destination; I head straight for the gym. During aerobics or intense exercise my thoughts are sharpened and I am focused and determined more than ever. Allowing myself to have time to travel, think, and workout is what gives me the drive to press on.

Learn more about Cindy Chao here