China-born fine jewellery designer and self-made entrepreneur Diana Zhang has a love affair with perfection. Her appreciation for jewellery stemmed from a young age when her grandmother would show her a pair of silver bangles – a prized possession during difficult times in northeastern China – that Zhang viewed as a treasured family heirloom.
Years after, Zhang is gradually making a name for herself in the global fine jewellery industry. In 2014, she was the only Chinese female jewellery designer who participated in the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris.
Her collection, “One Year in China,” a celebration of the spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons, was well-received and branded as a stimulating fusion of Eastern and Western cultures.
In an interview with JNA, Zhang shares her passion for excellence and how she views jewellery as one of the highest forms of self-expression.
JNA: How did you end up in the jewellery design business?
Diana Zhang: I have always been artistic. As a child, I viewed anything pleasing to the eye – jewellery in particular – as a form of expressing oneself. I did not come from a family of jewellers. Among my friends, I’m the only one who is in the jewellery industry. Before putting up my own business, I studied at the Gemological Institute of America, and took art classes and short courses on jewellery collection at Christie’s. I visited global exhibitions; I wanted to understand what high jewellery means and see celebrated designers’ artistic pieces for myself. Jewellery design is my passion and I’m constantly chasing it.
JNA: Please tell us about your latest work and your design inspirations.
Zhang: For me, jewellery is a form of art. It is something that I can leave behind as a legacy. I want my jewellery to tell my story to future generations. This is why I strive to make my jewellery perfect; every piece is like my baby. I take six months to two years to make one piece in my studio. My latest collection, One Year in China, features the flowers of the four seasons and each flower represents the vibrancy of Chinese culture. Winter, for instance, highlights plum blossoms – the only flower that blooms in the cold months. It represents independence and strength. It reminds me of the bleak winter landscape where everything is covered in snow, and in the middle of the snow is a little red flower, fighting to survive. It is a beautiful and happy memory.
JNA: What do you think will be the trends in jewellery design this year?
Zhang: My jewellery collections talk about things that have touched my heart. Whenever a client asks me to work on a custom-made piece, I would meet with her and try to feel her story so I would know exactly how to design the piece for her. Every person is unique; every jewellery piece that I make is equally unique. I want my jewellery to convey the wearer’s true emotions so I don’t really follow trends. I also like giving my creations a modern twist. Now, everyone is sharing his or her individuality through Facebook or WeChat. It is the era of self-expression. And jewellery is self-expression. For instance, I created a one-ear earring because we don’t have to conform to the norms all the time. Why can I not wear a single earring if I wanted to? I also created a bangle that fits the back of the hand; you don’t necessarily have to put it on the wrist. You’re free to wear the jewellery whichever way you want. Jewellery is about freedom; that is the trend now. Using jewellery-making techniques to create something exceptional, fresh and revolutionary – that’s what I’m doing.
JNA: Describe to us the materials that you use for your jewellery collections.
Zhang: I love using D, E and F colour diamonds of VVS and VS clarities. For coloured gemstones, I’m a fan of no-oil Colombian emeralds, no-heat Pigeon’s Blood Burmese rubies, blue sapphires, fancy sapphires and tsavorites. I use titanium mixed with gold. Titanium is light so you can create big, statement pieces that are not heavy. This works best for earrings.
JNA: What are your contributions to the industry as a young designer with a modern perspective?
Zhang: I’m passionate and I love what I’m doing. The more I learn, the more I love the craft. I’m not really thinking of my position and my brand – I’m just making jewellery from the heart. The most important thing I can contribute to the industry is perhaps promoting self-expression. Every year, I try to improve my design and technique.