To say Wallace Chan is something of an enigma in the jewelry world is a massive understatement. He’s made a name for himself by combining the best of old world techniques with modern technology. The mediums Chan is known for – primarily titanium and now ceramic – are not typical of fine jewelry.
In fact, they are directly contradictory to what many people consider fine jewelry.
His most recent invention, the aforementioned ceramic, is said to be FIVE TIMES harder than steel. Leaving alone the implications his invention has for other industries (such as the defense industry – ceramic engines, anyone?), ceramic offers Chan the opportunity to create unique jewelry in a medium that allows for the variety of colors.
“Metal can’t always be the colors that I want. That was one of the reasons why I decided to research porcelain, to get the colors that I want to use in jewelry,” Says Chan, 62, in an interview with the New York Times.
Ceramic also holds a special significance to Chan, in that it is a material that’s been around for ages. Growing up, the adults in his family use ceramic utensils. Being a child, he was not allowed to use them due to their delicate nature – something he discovered when he picked one up and it promptly broke as he accidentally dropped in on the floor. Rather than make him wary of the fragile substance, it piqued Chan’s interest.
In order to make his unbreakable porcelain, Chan uses only the most pure, unadulterated materials. The exact composition is a highly guarded secret; one that he is able to maintain with a very small staff and by doing much of the work himself. Chan takes pride in completing the more intricate designs with his own hands – something most major jewelry designers can’t say.
The “Wallace Cut” is what Chan is most well known for. By combining three different techniques – intaglio, cameo, and gem faceting – he creates multidimensional pieces of art that just happen to be wearable as jewelry. Viewed directly from the front of the gem, one can see four surprise images engraved in the gemstone.
He also loves being able to combine old world techniques with modern technology. Many traditional artists frown on the usage of computer-aided design (CAD) technology and machinery. Chan, on the other hand, views such stubborn resistance as imprudent. It is serving him well thus far. Many believe Chan’s work will make him the first high-end jewelry designer to come from Asia. In their eyes, his work is right up there with the likes of Cartier, Tiffany & Co, and Chopard.
Chan’s new invention is a way to venture further into his passion of fine, colorful jewelry, and perhaps patch up an unpleasant memory from the past. He isn’t interested in the implications his ceramic invention has for other industries (though it will prove to be incredibly lucrative). To Chan, that would be counterproductive. He’s more interested in leaving a lasting impact on the jewelry industry.
To Wallace Chan, “The porcelain is the future.” That may very well be true, but to us, HE is the future of the jewelry industry. Time will tell.
To read more about Chan and his new invention, browse the articles linked below: