Established in 1973, Hong Kong-based On Tai Jewellery has achieved high praise for its tradition of fine craftsmanship and design expertise. The family business, which traces its roots to 1930s Shanghai, is in the hands of third-generation jeweller Lisa Lee, the creative force behind her namesake brand, Lisa Lee Joaillerie. In an interview with JNA, Lee talked about her passion for jewellery design, her finest collections and her business outlook.
JNA: What sets your collections apart in terms of design and the type of materials used?
Lisa Lee: I am deeply influenced by Western culture, thanks to my years of studies abroad and extensive experience dealing with buyers from around the world. My collection combines classic and contemporary designs with eastern and western cultural elements. It is classic but with an inventive twist. I am also passionate about shapes. My jewellery has to be long-lasting, comfortable and easy to wear, and suitable for any time of the day and at any occasion.
JNA: What does the word “design” mean to you?
Lee: To me, it is all about heritage. I strive to design jewellery pieces that may be passed on from generation to generation. Also, since I believe that every piece of jewellery has a life of its own, we hold ourselves to extremely high-quality standards. This is reflected in the materials we use in our collections.
JNA: What are your popular collections?
Lee: I sort my collections based on the materials used. Hence, I have South Sea pearl; Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald; Coral and semi-precious stone collections. My South Sea pearl jewellery line with diamonds is very popular with clients since it radiates femininity and elegance.
JNA: Who do you design for?
Lee: We have clients worldwide, with retailers and private customers making up our main customer base. Our jewellery is exported to Europe, specifically to Germany and Switzerland. We also have clients from the Middle East, and they are quite fond of our matching necklaces, rings and earrings. Meanwhile, our Japanese clients come to us with interesting and challenging design requests. Last but not least, we are seeing increased demand from mainland China, especially from Shanghai and Beijing.
JNA: Which three words would you use to describe your work and style?
Lee: I will use “lively,” “exquisite” and “radiating.” It is important for a piece of jewellery to be lively because it is not only a commodity; it expresses emotions and feelings. This is what makes my jewellery unique. As for “exquisite,” I think refined craftsmanship is essential to highlight the emotional content of a piece. Craftsmanship and emotional element are inseparable. They complement each other. Lastly, I think my jewellery is able to highlight the personality of its wearer. It is a statement of one’s style, allowing the wearer to shine at any occasion.
JNA: Which gemstone fascinates you the most?
Lee: I am very fond of sapphires. I love its soft and gentle lustre. It is a gemstone that goes very well with various styles. To me, sapphire is timeless and I will never grow tired of it.
JNA: What is your outlook for the jewellery industry?
Lee: Jewellery, in my opinion, is a luxury item. Therefore the industry’s future depends on the economic development of each individual market. Some markets are very stable, like Germany. Others, such as Russia, might not do as well due to volatile market conditions.
I think Indonesia has one of the most promising markets due to its expanding middle class and strong demand for jewellery. Business sentiments in Hong Kong have likewise started to improve. People are more willing to buy now compared with the previous year. However, I believe the China market will remain quiet. Anti-corruption measures continue to impact luxury goods consumption. Consumers are more conservative now.
JNA: What are your latest projects?
Lee: I am currently working on my new collection for the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. What I have in mind at the moment is a casual chic collection that allows wearers to pick the type of gemstones for their jewellery based on their outfits and colour preferences.