By Bernardette Sto. Domingo
Sarah Zhuang of Hong Kong has all the ingredients to become a phenomenal jewellery designer, thanks to a combination of innate talent and opportunity. Growing up in a family of jewellers, Zhuang was exposed to the world of fine jewellery from a young age.
She further honed her talents and obtained a design certificate from the Gemological Institute of America and a professional diploma from the Hong Kong Design Institute.
She has been designing bespoke jewellery pieces since 2013. Her works have since gained recognition from various design competitions by the Hong Kong Jewellery Manufacturers’ Association and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, among others.
In 2016, the designer established her fine jewellery brand, Sarah Zhuang Jewellery.
Zhuang shares with JNA her views and aspirations, which take shape in the contemporary pieces that she creates.
JNA: What sets you apart as a jewellery designer?
Sarah Zhuang: What differentiates me from other designers is my design philosophy, which combines aesthetics and functionality. A lot of my pieces can be worn in many different ways such as a necklace with detachable upper and lower parts, which can be worn individually; or a pair of earrings that can be donned either as studs or with a cascading effect when put together.
I have five collections under the Sarah Zhuang brand, and each collection is inspired by a certain type of modern woman. For instance, the Spread Your Wings Collection represents an ambitious and independent woman who is not afraid to pursue her dreams, while the Dancing Butterfly Collection features whimsical jewellery pieces that celebrate a woman’s jovial personality. The diamonds that I use are of good SI clarity grade and G to H colours. I’m also a huge fan of fancy sapphires.
JNA: Could you tell us more about your collections?
Zhuang: The Spread Your Wings Collection highlights pieces that are sharp and chic, and make a bold statement. I drew inspiration from angels because they symbolise freedom and enlightenment. When I designed the Dancing Butterfly Collection, I had a vision of someone cheerful and wearing colourful outfits, and whose presence always lights up the room. That’s why I used the butterfly as a symbol because they are flamboyant and fun to have around.
The focal aspect of my Lady Rose Collection is the rose since this flower epitomises someone who is attractive and elegant. I’m deeply inspired by the concept of modern women and their strength in facing life’s challenges.
I also like to play around with my pieces so there’s always more than one way to wear them, which for me, is an ode to women’s versatile and enduring personalities.
JNA: What is your design process?
Zhuang: I usually start with a sketch. I then paint the image using watercolour and explain it to my craftsmen so we can create a mould together. My brand just started in 2016. My market is women between 25 and 45 years old who are looking for contemporary fine jewellery. These are not the traditional jewellery that women in the past used to wear. Every piece that I make is imbued with a more avant-garde style. Apart from diamonds and some coloured gemstones, pearls likewise figure quite a lot in my designs. I recently made two rings, which won the Merit Award in the 2016 design competition of the Hong Kong Jewellery Manufacturers’ Association. The rings, named Long Distance Love, are two individual pieces that can be worn together or separately, and represent lovers in a long-distance relationship. The rings may be taken apart and put together as a brooch. I also designed a watch for Memorigin, which can be worn in seven ways. There’s also this bangle called East Meets West, which features famous buildings in Hong Kong. It was a competition piece for the HKTDC Design Competition in 2015.
JNA: What’s in store for you in 2017?
Zhuang: I’m going to Florence to study jewellery design for three months. I definitely see myself in the jewellery design industry for a long time. This is just starting for me and I hope to expand to markets other than Hong Kong in the future. I’m looking at the US and China. I’m also open to the possibility of using more coloured gemstones in my pieces. At the moment, I’m partial to white diamonds since they exemplify universality and elegance.