Chinese jewelry designers take three of top spots in HRD Awards jewelry contest

HRD Antwerp announced the names of the winners of the HRD Awards contemporary diamond jewelry contest at a gala event in Beijing in late October. The HRD Awards contest, organised by HRD Antwerp and held every two years, was co-organised by the Gem & Jewellery Trade Association of China (GAC) and sponsored by Tesiro. 
The theme of the HRD Awards 2013 was ‘Trompe l’oeil’, or ‘Nothing is what it seems’, with the creation of the perfect illusion into a jewelry item being the challenge set for the jewelry designers. HRD Antwerp said the competition aims to promote creative talent, to extend the limits of the modern diamond jewels and to translate avant-garde ideas into trendsetting jewellery. In addition, it promotes diamonds and jewellery in general.
A jury of jewelry industry experts selected 31 winning designs, out of a record number of 1,350 entries. The 31 chosen were then invited to make their jewelry pieces, and out of the final 28 jewelry items, the top five winning jewels were unveiled in the China National Convention Centre in Beijing. The winner received a cash prize of $10,000, while the other four finalists each receive $2,500.
Among the most outstanding elements of the competition winners was that three out of the top five selected are Chinese. As with its growing role as a diamond producing and consuming country, China is also making great progress in the field of jewelry design.
Designer Paola Strammiello from Italy won first prize, while the other four finalists were: Wan Hei Tung from Hong Kong, Evi Bakker from The Netherlands, Ma Chao from China, and Shen Feng from China.
Strammiello works as a senior jewelry designer and consultant for Forevermark De Beers Group in Milan. The focus lies on high end jeweler, wedding and bridal collections and diamond jewelry.
Her jewelry design was called Magic Mushroom and is a ring that plays an optical illusion. "Just like in Wonderland, reality seems to be the result of a hallucination triggered by a mushroom. Based on the physical law of two mirrored parabolas, the diamond located inside the jewel is revealed only in the form of a mirage if viewed through certain angles.
"The real diamond is hidden and can only be viewed by a careful observer when viewed at a certain angle, thanks to a complex game of mirrors. In this trompe-l'oeil jewel, what is visible is not real and what is real is not visible. Just like the magical inner world of every dreamer," the HRD Antwerp said.
First finalist Wan Hei Tung from Hong Kong is an advertising student who says she has a passion for design since she sees it as a way to discover and express herself. There is no limitation in the designing world and that is what she is looking for, she said, freedom. HRD Awards 2013 is the first jewelry design competition in which she has participated and that created a huge challenge for her, as she does not have any related experience.
Her inspiration was a vase, inspired by the typical features of a Chinese vase. The shape and appearance of the jewel fools one into assuming it is a vase, but on a closer look, one sees that the object is in fact broken up into bracelets, chokers and earrings. The illusion of the vase thus makes way for a jewelry collection. “Bone china is a rare material which reflects one's social status and power. Its sophisticated translucency symbolizes the pureness and elegance of ladies. This graciousness is reinforced by the combination of bone china and diamonds,” she said.
Meanwhile, Evi Bakker grew up in a creative family. She said she participated in the HRD Awards because the requirements of being eligible to take part “exactly represents what she finds important for a design, the story, the technique, the combination of materials, the appearance, the functionality and of course the beauty of a jewel. 
“Therefore, the HRD Awards competition was a challenge on every point. My designs are mostly organic in shape, and I love the contrast between materials and lines, which delivers beautiful graphical effects.” Her style is very recognizable, her opinion is that a personal style is a must for a designer, said HRD Antwerp. For Evi, shadow is a form of illusion. The shadow world is a reflection of the reality, a changeable reality.
She described the inspiration for her work in this way: “Once upon a time there was a strange bird, it only appeared in the evening and no one could ever catch it, I suppose you would like to meet him .My inspiration comes from shadowgraphy, the art of performing a story with hand shadows. The contrast between the brightness of the diamonds and the shadow of the ring illustrates the discrepancy between reality and fantasy. Use your imagination and create your own story, a cinema in silhouette. Nothing is what it seems, shadows are everything you want them to be: this ring can be a bird, a fantastic monster or a jewel. It's up to you.”
Next was Ma Chao, aged 24, who graduated from Shandong Institute of Arts & Crafts. He majored in jewellery design and was immediately offered a position as jewellery designer with Qingdao Gemopia Jewelry Co, Ltd. During his career, he has participated in jewellery design competitions and won awards for his work. 
“I have taken my inspiration from the heart. Because showing real heart in work or life is the most moving, the most sincere and the most beautiful emotion. I am making continuous efforts to let the unique beauty of the heart inspire my designs. Hence, the creation of my special brand, design by heart.
“The inspiration of the first series of 'Needle and Thread' stems from the needle and thread commonly used for sewing in our daily life. Using the diamonds as 'thread', the scene aims to show the effect of skillful sewing. The permutation and combination of diamonds is used to mimic the wearing effect of jeans in the second series of 'Needle and Thread', for which I found inspiration in the popular 'beggar jeans'.
The fourth winner was Feng Shen who is from the first batch of Chinese Jewellery Design graduates. He participated in the first event held by Shenzhen city: ‘Shenzhen Creative Design Day’, where he was chosen to represent the Shenzhen jewelry design industry. He also functions as vice-president of the jewelry design association.
He has taken part in more than 20 domestic and international design competitions, and won awards for his work.
He is regularly interviewed on TV and other media, according to HRD Antwerp, and has participated in a US television program called ‘Complete Fashion Handbook’ where he provided his jewelry design expertise. He has co-edited and published books such as Five Element, and The Jewellery Design Guide. Feng Shen has 15 years of experience in design, manufacturing and marketing.
As for his inspiration, he says: “My design features a ring in the shape of a tree, with diamonds growing on its branches. The versatility of the design engenders two different ways of looking at the tree: when static and with its roots pointing downwards, the tree is nothing more than a melancholic trunk. But when turned around and worn as a ring, it comes to life and grows into a mature, robust tree. Trunk or tree, the choice is yours…”