Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week is also the time for the big Haute Joaillerie talents to present their high creations to the world on the prestigious Place Vendôme – the place to be for the finest jewellery names in the world.
The Ritz Hotel always hosts many of the world’s leading foreign designers, some just for the fashion week whilst others are present at the Ritz all year round. Anna Hu, the world’s most expensive jewellery artist, does both – a permanent window at The Ritz and a striking showroom exhibition during this unique event.
For connoisseurs of high jewellery, it’s one of those rare chances not only to meet Anna directly but also to enjoy the experience of touching and wearing some of her Million Dollar creations. Of course it’s all about the stunning contemporary pieces that this ex-cellist has created under the exhilarating influence of classical music rather than her world-record price tags. One can truly feel and almost hear the music by simply looking at the creations, even if only in her books!
Hu is certainly not ‘just another female Asian jewellery artist creating more butterflies with more diamonds and more jadeite’. Considering that this Taiwanese New Yorker’s family name ‘HU’ actually means ‘butterfly’, one can well expect her to produce at least one butterfly collection but whatever she creates is always a few steps ahead and a higher challenge combined with a sophistication beyond what has been done before. Hu seems to well on her way to setting the new standards of high jewellery for the 21st Century, always with a deep meaning attached to each and every creation.
Unlike some master jewellers who have felt compelled to create fake brand stories based on an animal, insect, flower or a love story, Anna is a living legend with a real story, a real passion, a real universe that flows out of her just as a symphony flows out of a great composer. She does not design ballerinas to try to devise a brand symbol for herself or to appeal to those who frequent the opera houses of the world. The ballerinas are there because Anna is there. The music is in her soul and in her blood. It’s part of her life as much as it is part of the lives of ballerinas. They are raised in opera houses and it shows in the delicate dancers that we can almost feel moving, enhanced by a gorgeous mix of coloured stones give endless motion to their tutus – far superior to the stiff mini-statues that one tends to see from the established jewellery houses.
Hu’s ‘brand universe’ is just as authentic and organic as that of the world’s great master artists and maestro composers. Her universe is herself, her philosophies, her authentic emotions, her genuine love for music and her true artistic talents.
Unlike the houses who employ marketing advisors to ‘position’ their brands or hire ad agencies to develop their brand identities, Anna’s world has developed naturally through her passions. Her work has been appreciated by the best museums, the big jewellery collectors, the leading luxury experts and magazines worldwide and must be making both the marketing and the ‘design directors’ of the big houses weep with envy.
Most of the big brand names in the luxury jewellery sector do not seem to have achieved much since the days gone by when they were acknowledged with great awards and royal clients from a few hundred years ago, whereas at the age of 35, Anna presented her first global exhibition at the Louvre’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) in Paris along with her first book aptly entitled, “Symphony of Jewels, Opus 1”. Hu’s sense of colour, structure, form, mix of stones and movement leaves one wondering what took the museum so long to host her.
One year later she broke two world auction records at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels’ sale in Geneva. First, the world auction sales record for a contemporary jewellery artist – an accolade previously held by JAR (Joel Arthur Rosenthal, also known as the ‘phantom of the Place Vendôme due to his secrecy and avoidance of the public eye). Second, the highest auction price per carat for a Burmese sapphire. She then went on to break the world auction record for a Chinese contemporary jewellery artist with the $2.59 million sale of her Orpheus Jade Ring at the Christie’s Hong Kong “Magnificent Jewels” sale.
At the Ritz, Hu presented her « Silk Road Music Collection » “I have always been so fascinated by the culture from Silk Road, the most ancient route in the world. As I would like this collection to speak to my Chinese roots, I decided to base my new creations on the traditional yet exotic Silk Road music.” The collection includes five pieces of jewels, each delicately crafted in Paris by the most exquisitely skilled artisans.
Among the five creations is the “Dunhuang Pipa Necklace”, with a jaw-dropping 100.02-carat fancy intense yellow diamond, inspired by the beautiful Chinese instrument, pipa as well as the Dunhuang Mogao grottoes. Since Sui-Tang times, the Mogao Grottoes have symbolized the starting point of the Silk Road. This necklace can also be transformed into a brooch and a pair of earrings, offering the wearer more versatility in choosing their jewels.
As can be heard in the video interview, Anna projects her passion for music onto her creations. To Anna, jewellery designs are like musical creations, and in her works, a song’s melodic beauty can always be felt. Her “Jadeite Cello Brooch” takes inspiration from Picasso’s “Violin Hanging on the Wall”, located in Switzerland’s Museum of Fine Arts Bern (Kunstmuseum Bern).
The “Blue Magpie Brooch” calls on the Jesuit missionary and painter at the imperial court of China – Giuseppe Castiglione for inspiration as well as an antique Blue-and-White Flower-Bird-Motif Circle-Squared Plate from the National Museum of History. Anna used coloured gemstones to translate the two blue magpies and flowers from the forests resulting in a combination of Chinese aesthetics and Western aristocracy.
The “Ellington Earrings”, a tribute to Duke Ellington, incorporate piano keys, the shape of harps and the flow of melody. Designed with blue sapphire, baguette cut and modified cut diamonds, this unique piece glitters on its titanium set. In the middle, conch pearls represent the notes, perfectly interpreting classical jazz in the most elegant style. It is, however, not clear how the creation is linked to the silk road.
Likewise for the lovely “Appassionata Ring in Ruby” – a combination of piano keys and the silhouettes of harps. The classic baguette cut and modified cut diamonds create the uniqueness of this precious piece combined with rare rubies along with round brilliant cut diamonds glitter on its platinum set. The design perfectly interprets classical jazz. The ring covers three fingers in an elegant way. The emerald cut rubies in the middle embody the black keys on the piano.
Other than the « Silk Road Music Collection », Anna Hu presented nine other recent creations including the “Rachmaniov Bracelet” which is discussed in the video. Each piece individually represents HU’s ongoing enthusiasm for music, culture and nature, bringing the audience an eye-opening experience in jewellery art.
At the brand’s cocktail reception, Pascal Morand, Executive President of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode officially announced Hu as a member of the Paris Haute Couture Committee. Anna Hu is now officially the first Asian female member of the Committee. Her jewellery has been worn by style-influencers and celebrities such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Hilary Swank, Oprah Winfrey, the acclaimed contemporary artist Cindy Sherman, and Jetsun Pema, the queen consort of Bhutan.
Hu and her jewels have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, W, ELLE, The New York Times, InStyle, Robb Report, Vanity Fair UK, Vogue Gioiello, Wall Street Journal Europe and leading Chinese publications including South China Morning Post, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, ELLE, L’of ciel, InStyle, Marie Claire, and many others.
Philippe Mihailovich and Caroline Taylor are luxury brand consultants at HAUTeLUXE and Visiting Professors of Luxury Brand Management at leading business, fashion and jewellery schools in both Paris and China. They are also Paris representatives and contributors to 2luxury2.com.