Sometimes, when jewellers hit on a motif that works, they stick to it. Cartier has the leopard, Bulgari its serpent, Van Cleef & Arpels has the zip, and Cindy Chao has butterflies.
Since 2008, the Taiwanese art jeweller has been creating one-of-kind butterfly brooches crafted in titanium and set with rare gems, revealing a new creation every year. Each brooch takes 18 months to create, with Chao eschewing modern jewellery techniques in favour of starting the design process by personally hand-sculpting the jewels in wax.
This year, her butterfly project has received international kudos in the art world as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris has inducted Chao’s first ever butterfly brooch from 2008 – the Ruby Butterfly Brooch – into its permanent collection.
“My Butterflies are the ultimate expression of my creativity as a jewellery artist, and it is a privilege to count the first piece from my Annual Butterfly series among the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ prestigious collection,” said Chao. “The Ruby Butterfly Brooch pushed my design techniques to a new level, and each year since I have challenged myself with a new Butterfly metamorphosis. It is so special to celebrate the 15th anniversary of [Cindy Chao] with the induction of the piece that inspired this artistic journey into the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.”
That initial Annual Butterfly design was a bold start to the collection. The piece was designed to depict a butterfly that has just emerged from its cocoon. Fancy-coloured diamonds and colour-changing sapphires bring an autumnal shade that perfectly sets off two non-heated Burmese rubies, which together weigh an impressive 12.89cts.
“This butterfly brooch from Cindy Chao, our first Taiwanese jewellery artist, is in the continuity of animal themes dear to the history of jewellery, while renewing this theme particularly with the suggestion of the flight and the very refined and complex scaling of the rubies and diamonds paving,” said Musée des Arts Décoratifs chief curator Dominique Forest.
The latest butterfly brooch in the Cindy Chao collection is 2019’s Aurora. The titanium brooch is set with 6,023 gemstones, including triangular rose-cut diamonds, Pigeon’s Blood Burmese rubies, yellow diamonds and blue sapphires. The brooch, Chao believes, symbolises “the soul, femininity and metamorphosis”.