To create her highly sophisticated pieces, designer Anna Hu calls on French ateliers. An opportunity to highlight, once again, their unique work.
By Sandrine Merle.
Exhibited at TEFAF, displayed in major museums and sold at auction for insane prices, the jewelry of designer Anna Hu is as beautiful as it is spectacular. It’s also highly technical… For her, having them made in Paris was an obvious choice. This is where the best workshops for the most renowned and talented jewelers are still concentrated. Generally small and independent, they compete in technical prowess for which customers are prepared to pay hundreds of thousands of euros.
A wealth of materials
The first thing you notice about Anna Hu’s jewelry is the profusion of stones in every color. Not a square millimeter of metal is free of them. The “Melody” bracelet is set with a cabochon of chrysoberyl and almost 3,000 diamonds, tourmalines and more. It’s impossible to count the number of stones that make up the 630 carats of the “Monet Water Lilies” necklace. Enamel is also omnipresent. The immense variety of gems is matched by that of metals. Aluminum ribbons mingle with diamond-set gold screws, platinum claws, silver or brass settings (as on the spectacular “Enchanted Lily” bracelet), a metal usually reserved for costume jewelry.
“Anna Hu breaks with established codes,” explains the manager of one of the workshops. “But that doesn’t stop her from listening and allowing us to interpret her designs. Which, let’s be honest, has become a rarity.” For Anna Hu, the craftsmen experiment and perfect new techniques, such as the velvety, pearly texture of the silver lily petals on the “Enchanted Lily” bracelet. “It took several acid baths, repeated polishing and a finish… classified as a secret”, explains the man who invented it. The realistic appearance of the stamens is achieved with rock crystals coated in fluorescent enamel. On the “Papillon de Blanc” ring, the diamonds have been positioned in such a way that the prongs are not visible: they appear to be set into the metal.
Aluminum, Anna Hu’s favorite material
Each of its many materials is characterized by physical constraints. Rhodium-plating silver (i.e. covering it with a layer of rhodium to increase its brilliance) set with emeralds and rubies can be dangerous: “so we set them from the back on removable platinum bezels (requiring no rhodium plating)”. While gold and silver are relatively easy to combine, the same cannot be said for aluminum: in addition to being fragile, Anna Hu’s favorite metal cannot be soldered. For this reason, few craftsmen want to risk setting a stone in it. “This production difficulty is offset by its extreme lightness, which makes it possible to produce voluminous pieces”, enthuses the craftsman who made the ribbons for the butterfly brooch and the setting for the shell brooch. The ultimate achievement of these workshops, however, lies in their ability to make us forget the highly technical nature of the jewels. All that remains is the emotion of their beauty...