Qeelin unveils novelties at the Miracle Garden private viewing exhibition in Hangzhou

At the recent Miracle Garden private viewing event, Hong Kong jewellery house Qeelin celebrated 20 years of doing what it does best: shining a contemporary light on our centuries-old culture and heritage. Stephenie Gee reports from Hangzhou

The Muh Shoou Xixi Hotel in Hangzhou

We have it on biblical authority that there is nothing new under the sun. And while King Solomon may not have been referring specifically to jewellery design when writing those words, his wisdom applies. Designers of the most modern pieces frequently take their inspiration – often to breathtaking effect – from the past. Case in point: Hong Kong jeweller Qeelin. The brainchild of Hong Kong designer Dennis Chan, its origins trace to his 1997 visit to Dunhuang in China’s Gansu Province, where the city’s storied history as a pivotal meeting point between the East and West on the ancient Silk Road and the marvellous storehouse of Buddhist artworks that is its Mogao Caves inspired an epiphany that the world stood in need of a jewellery entity that gave precedence to Chinese cultural heritage. And so, seven years later, Qeelin was born.

Taking its name from the qilin, a Chinese mythical creature of good omen, Qeelin operates on a vision to bring the best of China to the world’s stage. And it’s done so with great success. Stars like Kate Winslet, Rihanna and Katy Perry are just some of the illustrious names who have embraced its creations. In 2019, seven years after Kering’s acquisition and 15 years after its founding, it became the first brand out of Hong Kong to set down roots at the epicentre of high jewellery: the Place Vendôme in Paris. More recently, in late March, Qeelin took over Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing in celebration of the grand opening of its five-storey Ginza flagship nicknamed Qeelin Treasure Box; and two decades since it made its grand debut on the red carpet of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival – a single, shoulder-grazing Wulu earring on the ear of actress Maggie Cheung, a good friend and muse of Chan’s – enthralling the world with its unique fusion of Chinese symbolism and modernity.

The Qin Qin collection at the Miracle Garden private viewing.

Furthering the festivities, Qeelin unveiled a slate of novelties that expand on its codes at the Miracle Garden private viewing exhibition in Hangzhou. The glamorous two-day event gathered top clients, press and the Insta- famous from the region to the Muh Shoou Xixi Hotel, Qeelin-ified for the occasion with Wulu swing chairs, lacquered benches in the brand’s signature black and red, and mirrored Bo Bo figurines. At cocktail hour, guests donned their finery and mingled over champagne and canapés on the terrace, before a glasshouse dinner joined by Lay Zhang, the multi-talented star and the house’s latest face. Singer-songwriter Shan Yi Chun, and host and actress Shen Mengchen were also in attendance, dazzling in Qeelin brilliance. Epitomising the marriage of heritage and modernity that defines the brand, after nightfall came a light show and a traditional Kun opera performance.

The Wulu Fairy Necklace in rose gold with diamonds and ruby.

All of this was a precursor, of course, to the jewellery itself and, as per usual, Qeelin did not disappoint. Drawing on the concept of yin and yang as two opposite yet complementary forces in the world, every piece is born of heritage and infused with creativity, celebrating the beauty of harmony in its artistry. Designed after the goldfish, an auspicious symbol of good fortune since ancient times, the Qin Qin collection counts major head-turning creations. In one open-collar necklace, the scaled mascot – luminous in a gradient of Burmese “pigeon’s blood” rubies, and yellow and orange sapphires – is depicted swimming amongst lush aquatic plants with agility and freedom, juxtaposed head-to-head with a cluster of emeralds and diamonds. In another, it is suspended off a long chain interspersed with diamonds to mimic the look of bubbles. Fashioned in rose gold, a glorious 1.07-carat ruby crowns the head, framed by more shimmering rubies and diamonds that cascade down the neck in an open-worked tail that sways with the wearer’s movement.

The Wulu Lotus Pond Question Mark Necklace with lavender jadeite.

Inspired by the ancient “ruyi” padlock amulet, the Yu Yi series welcomes four precious updates. Drawing from the ornately carved windows of pavilions nestled within traditional Chinese gardens, the artisans played with integrating decorative geometric patterns into the locks in an intricate lattice-work design offering peek-a-boo glimpses of the skin set with diamonds and gemstones of either emerald, ruby, sapphire or pink sapphire. Bringing texture and an extra pop of colour, each motif is fastened onto beaded chains of matching hues: jadeites and emeralds create an interplay of vivid greens, red agates are paired with saturated reds of rubies, turquoises sing out against sapphires, and soft pink opals sharpen the vibrancy of pink sapphires.

Yu Yi earrings with diamonds, sapphires and turquoise.

The star of the show, however, resided firmly in the Bamboo collection. Signifying integrity, agility and strength, the perennial plant is recreated segment by segment using the finest A-grade jadeite, meticulously cut and inlaid into 18k white gold with diamond detailing. They are weaved together to form one long branch that wraps around the neck to drape, ever so slightly asymmetrically, down the neckline in a lariat-like manner. An orchid clasp sits where the branch joins at the front, featuring sculpted petals of pavé diamonds radiating from a ruby. The full diamond iterations are no less spectacular, offered with a charming panda clasp, encrusted in black and white diamonds with emerald leaves; or an orchid clasp rendered in pink sapphires. Long and hoop earrings complete the latter parure, which is realised in white gold to achieve a bright white sparkle. Chan believes that jewellery should be fun and playful, worn and cherished every day by a woman in constant motion. So, transformability is a defining characteristic of this collection – the bejewelled orchids and pandas can be detached or interchanged. Eminently wearable, consider it a collection to wear and treasure, lending a radiant touch of refinement to any ensemble.

A parure from the Qin Qin collection.

Qeelin’s first – and most iconic – collection, Wulu made several appearances, of course. The wulu itself
is a simple design. But sometimes the simplest forms can prove to be wellsprings of inspiration. The gourd motif has been in place since the brand’s beginnings, and there’s still room to toy with it. It’s a font of creativity for Chan, who has dreamed up several new iterations this season.

The Bamboo necklace in 18k white gold with jadeite, diamonds and rubies.

In Wulu Fairy, white or rose gold is manipulated into an undulating, twisting gourd form that recalls the gossamer robes of Dunhuang’s ethereal flying goddesses, embellished with diamonds that sparkle from every angle to create a sense of movement and fluidity. Each suite is ornamented with a different oval-cut coloured stone: Zambian emerald, Burmese ruby, pink sapphire, or “Santa Maria” aquamarine. Jadeites claim centre stage in the Wulu Lotus Pond line without feeling overly traditional thanks to a delicate, artful inlay of lotus flowers in diamonds and pink sapphires that catch the light like morning dewdrops reflecting the moon’s glow. The question mark necklace is particularly stunning, evoking sprigs of lotus coming into bloom around a jadeite wulu, its surface carefully polished and sides honed to a matte finish creating a layered three-dimensional effect. The barely visible chamfer outlining the figure eight form is cautiously buffed by hand to play up its light and shadow effects. An exceptional piece that is presented in two variations: one spun in rose gold with white jadeite and pink sapphires, and the other in white gold with lavender jadeite and diamonds.

The limited-edition Wulu 20 necklace with diamonds and jadeite.

Finally, the Wulu 20 captures the tree of life in diamonds, flourishing in a wulu outlined with 20 cabochon-cut jadeite stones. The piece comes on a long white gold chain, decorated with diamond leaves. Limited to only 20 pieces worldwide, the Wulu 20 is a reflection of Qeelin’s brand vision, commemorating its beautiful journey in pursuit of culture, and a tribute to the brand’s rich achievement in crafting and reliving our traditions and heritage. From the past into the present, and daringly into the future, the promise of Qeelin is one of love, joy and abundant blessings.

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