Written by Sze Man Young
Translated by Elmo Wong
Having run a garments business and a gallery, jewellery designer Jenny Lee has cultivated her artistic sense over the years. On top of her fondness for vintage designs, the Taiwanese jeweller produces delicate, beautiful creations of outstanding craftsmanship, with each piece demonstrating a perfect balance between strength and tenderness.
Taiwan’s Jenny Lee was in the garments industry before she embarked on a career in jewellery design. During her travels, she would buy K-gold jewellery from different places and transform them into whole new pieces by incorporating her own personal creative concept. Today, the designer continues to express herself through her jewellery that looks to the past for inspiration while firmly rooting itself in the present for design and technique.
Lee prefers using materials available in Taiwan such as agarwood, ebony and Taiwan red coral, setting these in precious metals with luxurious gems to create sophisticated jewellery pieces. Her designs are not ostentatious but classic and tasteful, often inviting praise for their meticulous details and superb craftsmanship.
The designer founded her first company in 2005 and joined a jewellery show in Taipei the following year. In 2009, she started tapping mainland China through jewellery shows in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. By 2013, Lee has established herself in the industry, setting up the Classical Art Jewelry Co Ltd and chairing the Taiwan Jewelry Designer Association.
Instead of establishing a namesake brand, Lee opted to name her company “Classical Art” as this embodied her design aesthetic while raising public awareness of Chinese culture.
“Some clients would ask me to redesign their old jewellery pieces. After consultation, I would usually take out the gemstone and remodel the piece. The good thing about silver is that the cost of resetting the metal is low, which can reduce material waste,” Lee said.
Lee’s creations are all handcrafted, and some combine old jewellery pieces with antique ornaments. For instance, she remodelled an ornament of a kingfisher feather with gilding and wood, and incorporated this in a simple yet chic jewellery piece.
Jewellery shows used to be Lee’s main channel in mainland China. But having solidified her customer base and distribution network over the last decade, the jeweller now increasingly meets her clients there at private trunk shows.
"I was part of the first wave of Taiwanese designers to explore the mainland market. At the time, most of the buyers were into gold and K-gold. My designs, which demonstrated strong cultural touches, came as a pleasant surprise to them."
According to Lee, though the jewellery industry is still recovering from economic setbacks that dealt a severe blow on the luxury jewellery sector, her company’s business performance has been quite satisfactory. “Our success can be attributed to our unique designs and the long-term support of our loyal customers. Our jewellery is also generally affordable, at around RMB 10,000 (around US$1,500) each, because I design with my target clients and their preferred price points in mind,” Lee said.