“The sound of the spoon breaking was so loud. So clear. I will never forget it.” – WALLACE CHAN
It all began with the dropping of a porcelain spoon used for dinner when he was young. The spoon shattered but the young child’s vision and dreams didn’t. World-renowned jewellery creator and innovator, Wallace Chan, was intrigued by the beautiful material but was upset about its fragility. The designer, known for his ingenuity, slogged for seven long years to infuse strength into porcelain and finally, he developed a version that was five times stronger than steel. Chan unveiled The Wallace Chan Porcelain in New York last November. Here’s the full story.
One of the top jewellery artists of this century, Wallace Chan, unveiled his latest innovation The Wallace Chan Porcelain—a new material that took seven years to develop and is five times stronger than steel!
The designer par excellence has many inventions to his credit. He is well-known for inventing an illusionary multidimensional gemstone carving technique called The Wallace Cut, and is a pioneer in creating one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces with the space-age metal, titanium. This time, Chan presented 14 new high-end jewellery pieces expressed in porcelain at a private show, ‘Shapeshifter: The Multiverse of Wallace Chan’, at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City. Each stunning piece of jewellery is linked to a philosophical exploration of the universe, depicting stories of the past and present, and Chan’s vision for the future.
Chan’s fascination with porcelain began at an early age. At five years old, he broke a porcelain spoon. The vivid memory of that experience never left him, and became his inspiration. “Our memory is our greatest material,” he said in the remarks delivered at the event.
To the young Wallace Chan, a porcelain spoon was much more than a standard utensil – it represented freedom, warmth, comfort and love.
Growing up, Chan and his siblings would take turns sharing a plastic spoon while they ate. The adults in the family used porcelain spoons.
Chan longed just to touch a porcelain spoon to see how one would feel. One day, his curiosity got the better of him. He reached for a spoon, but it slipped from his fingers, and shattered into pieces.
His heart broke. But his curiosity never left him.
Several years later, Chan’s cousin brought home a Chinese spoon. To his surprise, the spoon was of the Qianlong period, and he managed to sell it for a price many times higher than what it was purchased for. It was then that Chan learned of porcelain’s cultural and historical significance. He soon started collecting ceramic teapots. At one point, he spent a whole month’s income on a zisha teapot, which broke upon its first use. He kept the lid from the broken teapot. Eventually, he transformed it into a dazzling, intricate ring.
Chan wondered – for such a seemingly sturdy material, porcelain was fragile. It deserved to be strong; as strong as the centuries of history surrounding it. He set out to reshape porcelain; to reimagine it and to rebuild it. He was determined to look deeper.
He spent quite a while studying porcelain’s past, immersing himself in its world, and experimenting. Trying, failing and trying again. With every mistake came a lesson. As he grew to know porcelain, he grew to know himself.
After seven years, and countless trials and errors, The Wallace Chan Porcelain – a material five times stronger than steel, with rich colour, intense lustre, toughness and a contemporary spirit – was born. And with its creation came a powerful realisation: Our memory is our greatest material.
Chan believes: The spirit of what we once knew — in an earlier time in our lives, or on a previous plane of existence — shapes all that we encounter again.
A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM – NECKLACE
This transformable necklace represents five elements – metal, wood, water, fire and earth. The 96.71-carat emerald, a symbol of Mother Earth, embraces all living things with universal love. In a typical Wallace Chan signature, the pendant is juxtaposed with a contrasting gem, a rubellite to contrast emerald’s character of calmness and tranquillity, as the red colour conveys passionate dreams. Aquamarine and pearl are both symbols of the sea – water. They are meant to flow, circulating and bringing forth the different energies on earth and beyond earth. The necklace gets its flexibility with a mix of titanium and The Wallace Chan Porcelain. The two together represent a mixture of metal, wood, water, fire and earth – the flawless composition of nature and the universe.
A NEW GENERATION – RING
Many centuries ago, Chinese astronomers observed something no one had ever seen before. The object shimmered like a star, which shone far brighter, for far longer: it was a supernova.
Supernovas occur on an average of three times every 100 years. But when the creator is at work, time extends and space expands: there is a century in every minute, every hour, every day.
In A New Generation, three sapphires represent supernovas of the century, which outshine galaxies. The look and feel of the porcelain securing the gems reflects the material’s lustrous beauty.
The amorphous shape of the ring inspires endless associations. While its silhouette is futuristic, it’s also reminiscent of the pea pod, an auspicious symbol of fertility and good fortune in Chinese culture. The three peas symbolise newborns, while the pod indicates wealth.
DOUBLE STAR – RING
The term “double star” refers to two distant stars, which are viewed as one from the earth, for they have been visually aligned in such a way that creates an optical illusion for observing scientists.
This creation is a light-filled maze with many paths: Is what we see with our own eyes necessarily real? Is what is presented to us always the truth?
When the creation is viewed face up, every detail – from the flawless curves of the aquamarine to the intimate distance between the aquamarine and the pink porcelain – suggests that the aquamarine is oval-shaped and set on the porcelain. The porcelain used is pink, and there are only two pink sapphires surrounding the fancy-coloured diamond, and no other gemstones are present besides those immediately visible.
But a slight tilt of the ring changes the perception. The aquamarine is actually an eclipsed oval, and set on a layer of paper-thin titanium; the shank made of white porcelain contrasts the pink atop significantly; a pink sapphire larger than the other two combined is set covertly underneath the fancy-coloured diamond, and diamonds that were invisible from atop interweave with the ring like stems clinging to the trunk of a tree. “Hidden” passageways also exist – like the intricately carved path inside the aquamarine, upon which are set rows of petite diamonds. Gemstones within gemstones represent worlds within worlds, waiting to be uncovered.
EYE OF TIME – PENDANT
There are billions of stars in the Milky Way alone, and many more beyond. The universe’s vastness can seem so unfathomable that we become so entranced by it, we fail to see what is around us: we forget that a thing so small can somehow contain so much that there is a microscopic world thriving within.
This creation is a reminder that the “invisible” exists within what is visible to our bare eyes. It is a blend of biology and technology, of what is and what can be – a magnifying glass in the shape of an eye. The shape of the creation is reminiscent of that of the Eye of Agamotto in Doctor Strange – a Marvel movie deeply loved by the creator. The infinity stone contained, among other powers, the ability to control the flow of time. Interestingly, Wallace’s creations transcend time and space, and take us on a journey into worlds unknown.
MULTIVERSE – EARRINGS
Is the universe one of many? Science can’t prove this to be so, nor can it falsify supporting beliefs. Philosophy, however, goes beyond what the telescope can see. In the minds of many is a strong faith that multiple universes do indeed exist.
Art often expresses what words cannot. It is not based on logic, but experience and emotions. It does not require evidence to be true – it is an expression of feelings. In their cosmic sparkle and otherworldly lustre, these wearable works of art are a poetic representation of the multiverse.
In gazing through the windows of gleaming porcelain, one can see a world within a world. Shadows from the three-sided porcelain frames cast their way onto the lustrous spheres. Round diamonds nestled within the pearls add yet another dimension to the intricate, globular forms.
The diamonds’ brilliant-cut facets lie at the intersection of diamond-studded titanium claws set at the centre of the porcelain clouds. The titanium, almost electrifying in its vivid colour, pops against the porcelain figures it traces. A multi-layered ring of pink sapphires at the earrings’ posts adds a galaxy-like depth to the forms, encouraging the eye to see within. Streams of diamond baguettes connecting the spheres allow for the lightweight jewels to move upon the wearer with dazzling grace.
The porcelain shapes may also be thought to resemble auspicious clouds, forms believed to be lucky by the Chinese. A repetition of clouds in a pattern represents limitless fortune. Through the clouds, one catches a glimpse of the moon – that is, the pearl. Pearls are often associated with the moon in Chinese culture due to their luminous quality and round shape.
In fact, legends of ancient China have claimed pearls to originate from the moon. Current beliefs acknowledge the pearl as a symbol of hidden beauty, as it lies enclosed within the mollusc’s dark shell before it is uncovered to reveal its true form.
Many theories on pearls and the universe exist; as with art, truth is to be found in those that resonate with both heart and mind.
STARLIGHT BALLET – RING
A 12.88-carat spinel, diamonds, pink sapphires, porcelain and titanium. The ballerina follows the light; as she moves, it moves. In between their movements are emotions, strength and rhythm – an intangible presence. Starlight Ballet aims to capture and express the interaction between these inspiring, moving elements in air.
When the light of the gemstone travels across the porcelain’s surface, it is as if the ballerina has performed a rond de jambe, or an arabesque. At that particular moment, time, not her body, becomes the embodiment of her dance. The tip of her toe is one with the spirit of the universe. It appears so light, yet it is incredibly powerful.