There is no denying that jewellery designer Pinky Szeto is in love with colours. A quick glance at her collections during a trade show in Hong Kong brings to mind pastel-coloured flowers in a garden of golds and greens, or a kaleidoscope of colourful fish swimming in the earth's bluest oceans.
Szeto sits down with JNA to talk about her well-loved collections as well as the latest projects of the Hong Kong International Jewellery Designers Association (HKIJDA), which she heads.
JNA: Could you tell us more about your background as a jewellery designer?
Pinky Szeto: I've been designing jewellery for about 20 years now. I think my passion for jewellery design was inspired by my mother who was a jeweller as well. I grew up in the jewellery industry, so to speak. I established Starlite Jewellery Company in 2007, along with my brand, Slite.
As a designer, I'm drawn to colours so you'll find an abundance of coloured gemstones in my collections. I love combining them together. At the moment, I'm focused on designing modern, multi-purpose jewellery in whimsical designs, which bring joy to the wearer. What makes my collections exceptional, apart from the design, is superior craftsmanship but the pieces also come at reasonable prices. I know that buyers now exercise restraint in their purchases due to economic challenges so that's why I'm adjusting too.
JNA: How would you describe your design philosophy?
Szeto: I come out with new collections every season. I would normally design nature-inspired pieces bursting with colours. This time, I created a few pieces – while still colourful – with distinctive features such as a ring with a secret compartment where you'll find more gemstones. Using modern technology, this is a concept that I've recently introduced to my buyers and I love seeing the reaction it elicits from them. The response is quite positive. This collection showcases mechanical features, which inject more character into the pieces.
JNA: What are your most favoured coloured gemstones?
Szeto: Emeralds, rubies, blue and fancy sapphires and blue topaz but I'm also partial to pink topaz and pink tourmaline. I also use tsavorites and turquoise stones. Do you know that I cut some of the stones myself? I design the jewellery and cut the stones so there are pieces from my collections that are incredibly personal because I'm deeply involved in the production process.
My design philosophy has always been to be different; I want to make jewellery that nobody else has, which makes the pieces all the more valuable and desirable.
I do fine jewellery but I also offer a more affordable line. For me, it's the design that defines the jewellery piece at the end of the day. My fine jewellery collections are quite exceptional because they are one of a kind and only displayed in my office. Only one buyer owns a particular bespoke piece; I never replicate it.
I have a diverse product portfolio so I can sell to anyone in the market. It's important to provide clients with a wide range of products.
JNA: What will be the most popular coloured gemstones this year?
Szeto: Those would have to be green gemstones so we will most likely see a great deal of jewellery pieces adorned with peridots, tsavorites and emeralds.
JNA: What are your top markets?
Szeto: Europeans, some from the US and a few Asians. I have a strong customer base in China and Hong Kong for my fine jewellery line because they are more into tailor-made pieces. There are also buyers from Russia and Spain.
JNA: What do you have in store for HKIJDA members this year?
Szeto: The association's aim is to provide support and assistance to upcoming jewellery designers to help them break into the industry and strengthen their network.
Formed in 2007, the association mainly offers a platform for Hong Kong jewellery designers and small- to medium-sized enterprises to share experiences and information, and promote their original design concepts globally.
It likewise provides education, legal advice, industry updates and employment information to budding jewellery designers.
This year, we are planning to hold seminars and trainings, and maybe collaborate with another association for a project. It's going to be an exciting year for us. But the focus this year will be on education. I think there is a tremendous need to educate both industry players and buyers, and help newcomers know more about doing business and how to get into this field. There are many aspiring jewellers at the moment. We have more than 150 members to date. I think it is important to have such an association because it provides them training in jewellery design, and insights into how the industry works. We offer them guidance on what buyers are looking for and how to market their creations more effectively.