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Meet Wallace Chan, a jeweler that designs gem with soul


HONG KONG — Wallace Chan, the Hong Kong jeweler behind the creation of what has been called the world's most expensive diamond necklace, began working with his hands when he was 8 years old.

香港——"世界上最昂贵的钻石项链"背后的创作者是香港珠宝设计师陈世英(Wallace Chan),他从八岁就开始做手艺活了。

Mr. Chan, 59, now works in an upstairs studio in Central Hong Kong, something of a fortress, with double electronically locked doors. A slight man with a long gray beard, wearing a plain black suit, he sat in a back room — a black cloth thrown over his desk, the shades drawn against the sunlight — and assessed bag after bag of uncut, unpolished stones, each one the size of a golf ball. 


"The stone tricks the eye, so I have to outsmart it," he said, peering at a lump of topaz with a flashlight. "I can see its flaws and angles. There are elements I want to hide and elements I want to bring out. I am chasing its light."


In September, Mr. Chan unveiled A Heritage in Bloom, called the world's most expensive diamond necklace, at an estimated cost of $200 million. Its 11,551 diamonds, with jade pieces to create the butterflies and bats that Mr. Chan loves, total 383 carats; the centerpiece diamond alone weighs 104 carats.

九月,陈世英发布了"裕世钻芳华"(A Heritage in Bloom),它被称为世界上最昂贵的钻石项链,估价2亿美元。它使用玉块及11551颗钻石,拼出陈先生喜欢的蝴蝶与蝙蝠图样,重达383克拉。主钻重达104克拉。

The project started in 2010 when Chow Tai Fook, a Hong Kong jewelry company, acquired an extremely rare, unpolished 507-carat diamond found in the Cullinan mine in South Africa. It commissioned Mr. Chan to craft the stone into a masterpiece that would become part of China's long history of jewelry design.


"When I saw it, I felt my spirit leaving my body and returning," Mr. Chan said. "I looked at that rock for three years before I touched it." The final product took 47,000 hours of work from 22 craftsmen.


In late November, as part of the viewing period for its Dec. 1 gem auction, Christie's Hong Kong opened an exhibition featuring 30 exceptionally technically difficult works by Mr. Chan, some of which had not been seen publicly before. The show, which didn't include sales, coincided with the introduction of "Wallace Chan: Dream Light Water," a 380-page book written by the jewelry expert Juliet W. de La Rochefoucauld and published by Rizzoli.

12月1日,佳士得香港将举办珠宝拍卖。作为拍卖观赏期的一部分,11月底,佳士得举办了一次展会,内容是陈先生的30件工艺极为复杂的作品,其中有些从未公开展出。这次展览不包括销售,正好与《陈世英:梦光水》(Wallace Chan: Dream Light Water)一书同时推出,这本380页的书由珠宝专家朱丽特•W•德•拉•罗切夫考尔德(Juliet W. de La Rochefoucauld)创作,由里佐利出版社(Rizzoli)出版社出版。

The $280 book will be available in the United States on Jan. 28, when Mr. Chan is scheduled to hold a talk and book signing at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.

这本书售价280美元,将于1月28日在美国上市,届时陈先生将在纽约的库珀•休伊特,史密森尼亚设计博物馆(Cooper Hewitt,Smithsonian Design Museum)做讲座和签名售书活动。

His favorite pieces are playful, whimsical, even humorous. There are dangling blue earrings called Dancing Elf; a rainbow-colored lark with a diamond in its beak; and a fish with translucent fins blowing bubbles. Mr. Chan particularly loves butterflies, a motif that appears in works such as Fluttery-Painted Lady, patterned with grass and flowers, and Ragtime, with flamelike wings crafted from paper-thin sheets of mother of pearl.

他最喜欢的作品有趣、古怪,甚至很有幽默感。其中有名叫"舞蹈精灵"的蓝色耳坠;彩虹色调的云雀嘴上嵌着一颗钻石;鱼儿长着半透明的鳍,还吐着着泡泡。陈世英尤其喜欢蝴蝶,这是他作品中常常出现的主题,比如:在"鼓翼的蛱蝶"(Fluttery-Painted Lady)中,蝴蝶与花草一起出现,在"拉格泰姆"(Ragtime)中,蝴蝶火焰般的翅膀用薄如纸张的珠母片做成。

Mr. Chan's hands are small enough for him to try on his own ladies' jewelry. He slid on a ring he called My Dreams, which is extraordinarily light and slimming to the fingers, considering that it is made of two large jeweled cubes.

陈世英的手很小,能够试戴自己做的女式首饰。他戴上一只叫做"我的梦"(My Dreams)的戒指,它由两大块珠宝立方体组成,却极为轻盈,在手指上显得很纤细。

Using both hands, he picked up a large flower brooch, called Vividity, that is an explosion of hot pink and bright green. It, too, is surprisingly light for its size, the result of Mr. Chan's technique of using titanium, which has a fraction of the density of gold.


His two workshops — one in Hong Kong and one in Macau, employing artisans who have worked with Mr. Chan for 15 to 30 years — produce only about a dozen pieces of year. "I spend so much time with one piece that it becomes me," he said. "The stone is me, and I am the stone."


Mr. Chan became interested in precious stones when, at 16, he got a job at a workshop that carved Chinese religious icons. At 17, he begged his father for 1,000 Hong Kong dollars, now about $130, and used the money to buy a carving machine and a hunk of malachite and started selling small carvings door-to-door.


His family was pleased that he had found a steady job; but in his late 20s, he became restless.


"I wanted to be more than a workman," he said. "I wanted to study art and watch films. I wanted to make things I loved. I wanted to make jewelry that dances with you, creations that have a story and a soul."


So at the age of 28, against his family's wishes, he moved to Macau, then still a Portuguese colony but already a free-wheeling gambling haven.


He became obsessed with the fact that a flaw could be reflected many times in a cut stone — creating an optical illusion similar to a double-exposure photograph. From 1985 to 1987, he developed the Wallace Cut, the technique that would bring him international fame.

他开始对一件事着迷:切割之后的宝石里,一个瑕疵可能会被反射很多次,创造出一种光学幻象,类似二次曝光摄影。从1985年到1987年,他开发出了"世英切割"(Wallace Cut),这项技术为他带来了国际声誉。这种技术包括在多面的宝石背面钻孔,然后雕刻和蚀刻出一个反向的图像。从正面看的时候,这个图像就会被多次反射。

The Wallace Cut involves drilling a hole into the back of a multifaceted stone and then carving and etching an image, in reverse. When viewed from the front, the image will be reflected multiple times. 


His most famous Wallace Cut was an homage to the Horae, the Greek goddesses of the seasons, in blue topaz. A German dealer took one look at Horae and told Mr. Chan that he had to take it to Europe. He showed it at the 1991 Intergem Fair and the Deutsches Edelstein Museum, both in Germany, and began to be known as a carving prodigy.

 "世英切割"最著名的作品以希腊的时序女神(Horae) 命名,用蓝色托帕石制成。一个德国商人只看了一眼这件"时序女神",就告诉陈先生,他一定要把它带到欧洲去。后来,陈先生在德国的1991年Intergem博览会与德意志伊德尔斯泰因博物馆(Deutsches Edelstein Museum)展出了这件作品。

One of Mr. Chan's largest and most unusual commissions came in the late '90s, when a Taiwanese temple asked him to make a three-foot-high great stupa of gold, crystal and ruby to house a relic believed to be Buddha's tooth. Mr. Chan worked for months to figure out how to encase the tooth in concentric crystal globes; the project, completed in 2001, took two years in all.


François Curiel, chairman of Christie's Asia-Pacific, in an email called Mr. Chan a "Renaissance man in the best sense of the world — a scientist, designer, sculpture; but my best description of him is as a visionary.

佳士得亚太地区主席高逸龙(François Curiel)在电子邮件中称陈先生是"一位典型的文艺复兴式人物——科学家、设计师、雕塑家;但对他最好的描述一个有远见的人"。

"He has the curiosity, courage and, above all, the talents to push boundaries, artistically and geographically," Mr. Curiel continued. "He is one of the first Chinese jewelry artists to make his name in the international arena."


Mr. Chan finally broke through a glass ceiling in the jewelry world when, in 2012, he became the first Asian designer to be invited to exhibit at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris, the world's premiere haute jewelry exhibition.

陈世英最终打破了珠宝世界中的玻璃天花板,2012年,他成了第一个受邀参展巴黎古董双年展(Biennale des Antiquaires)的亚洲设计师,这是世界顶尖的高端珠宝展览。

"The Path to Enlightenment — Art and Zen" had pieces that were entirely different from those by European designers: a swirling Chinese dragon, a jade-green cricket, a translucent swan and fighting scorpions. The Great Wall, Mr. Chan's necklace of antique Chinese imperial jadeite and diamond-encrusted maple leaves, sold for 56 million euros, or $59.6 million. 

"启蒙之路:艺术与禅"(The Path to Enlightenment — Art and Zen)的展品与欧洲设计师们的珠宝内容截然不同:盘旋的中国龙、翡翠绿的蟋蟀、半透明的天鹅和打斗的蝎子。陈先生的"长城"(The Great Wall)是一款翡翠项链,带有钻石镶嵌的枫叶,售价5600万欧元,或约合5960万美元。

Mr. Chan is said to sell works only to clients he likes — a practice he neither confirmed or denied.


"If someone just says, 'I have money, I want it,' and they don't understand, then I don't want to give it to them."


Both Mr. Chan and his staff are extremely protective of customers, saying all sales are confidential. And auction reports on his pieces just note "private buyer."


Mr. Chan lives simply. He wears no jewelry, drinks endless cups of plain Chinese tea and still resides in a quiet corner of Macau.


"I want to leave a legacy," he said. "Chinese jewelry has a history of 6,000 years, and I want to be part of it."



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