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The living legend Wallace Chan

Posted on August 18 2017

Wallace Chan at his workspace designing drawing inspirational

So, a few months back we were privileged enough to get a visit from one of the jewellery industry’s greatest living artists, Wallace Chan. He is a master that blurs the line between artist and craftsman. I believe that all makers are artists on some level and Wallace is the epitome of this ideology.

Having grown up within a poor family in Hong Kong, Wallace took it upon himself to leave school at thirteen to help support his family. He was never handed anything on a silver platter, his dedication and passion for his craft has led him to create some of the world’s greatest curiosities. He evolved his skills and successfully opened his own workshop where he could sculpt and carve precious gemstones.

Wallace developed his own, new technique which is now famously known as the “The Wallace Cut”. Much like the aesthetic of the intaglios in Italy, this is a technique in which an image is carved directly into the stone. The stone can then be viewed from all angles, revealing an extremely intricate and beautiful three-dimensional image. This requires such precision and can be painstaking work. I know all too well the tolerance levels of working with natural gemstones, these raw natural objects are created by mother nature and it takes real talent to visualise and reveal the beauty within them.

Many gemstones have natural inclusions and must be treated with up most respect when being worked on. Incredibly, this is not the work of a machine, but something only a true artist can accomplish by hand, negotiating and exposing the beauty within. Any jeweller working with precious stones can tell you the complications and frustrations involved with all aspects of creating, let alone hand carving into a natural gemstone! Wallace’s Buddhist philosophy of remaining ‘patient’ serves him well in this aspect of being able to fully recreate a work of art. However, mastering this level of skill working with difficult materials, Wallace has now become one of the leading jewellers in titanium which is a notoriously difficult metal to work with. Titanium has a memory and therefore will not bend and is extremely brittle, also making it hard to carve into and almost impossible to set stones into.

 Wallace Chan three dimensional gemstone cutting

One of Wallace's most interesting pieces is the ‘Secret Abyss’ necklace, it features a 10.05ct yellow diamond which is placed inside one solid piece of rutilated quartz crystal. You can only imagine how intense the engineering work involved in creating a piece like this is. Wallace tells us that he broke over thirty pieces of rock crystal in attempts at making this piece, which was over the course of ten years. This time span may seem crazy to some, but remember this is a man driven by unseen forces, passion and pride.  Wallace is not making typically traditional pieces of jewellery, he is on a journey to create curiosities that will become some of the world’s greatest pieces of art. To call them heirlooms wouldn’t even cut it!


Wallace Chan Secret Abyss necklace gemstone carving

Another brain-buster of a piece is the ‘Mon Rêve’ ring, which features a 29.22ct green tourmaline and 12.38ct rubelite as it's central focus, surrounded by a mixture of garnets, pink sapphires, lapis lazuli, diamonds and tsavorites. Creations like these are classed at an incredible level of achievement within the jewellery industry and you can truly see why.


Wallace Chan Mon Rêve ring jewellery inspiration gemstone cutting


I think my personal favourite of Wallace's collection is the ‘Gleam of Waves’ brooch, not just for its technical aspects, but purely for the beautiful execution of its design. This almost sculpture-like creation is of an exotic fish, in which Wallace captures its fins with such life-like movement. The fluidity and real-life texture are such difficult things to achieve in a solid metal piece. The blue and pink sapphires set against the colour of the titanium is just magical, the colours almost look as if they are perfectly painted onto this work of art.


Wallace Chan 'Gleam of Waves' brooch jewellery inspiration gemstone carving

I have always been inspired by the art of lapidary and stone carving ever since I started out in the jewellery industry, but have never attempted to try it myself. Ever since meeting Wallace and engaging with his thought process I have been hugely inspired to attempt it. After meeting this gracious man (who also kindly agreed to have a picture taken with me), I went straight home to attempt carving a skull into a piece of tiger’s eye sourced from South Africa. It wasn’t too bad for a first attempt!


Wallace Chan jewellery exhibition inspiration gemstone cutting


If you ever get the chance to see this great artists work at an event, exhibition or show, I would highly recommend it. Feel free to ask questions and write in the below comments, and don’t forgot to subscribe!

With huge thanks to Wallace.

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