By Francesca Fearon in London
"My father, who is a sculptor, always taught me to observe and to keep doing so," says Cindy Chao, and the lessons learnt in his workshop as a child have served her well. She has an extraordinary eye for proportion, volume and movement.
Pick up one of her Black Label Masterpieces, like the charming puffer fish brooch, with its bulging Colombian emerald cheeks and frilly undulating tail, and admire the 5,000 diamonds set at every angle. Turn this delicate aquatic sculpture 40 degrees and more dazzling surprises unfold.
It is the same experience when you gaze at a pair of asymmetric orchid earrings set with Sri Lankan sapphires: observe them at different angles and diamonds appear, nestling secretively in the writhing vines.
Chao loves working with her hands, carving away at her soft wax models, approaching every piece of jewellery as if it were a three-dimensional artwork, likening these intricate pieces to "diamond sculptures".
She describes her creations as "full of vitality that elicit emotions, curvaceous and with sculptural structure, detailed at every angle, just like miniature architecture - that is the quintessence of my work."
The New York-based Taiwanese designer is celebrating her 10th anniversary this year with a special White Label collection of naturalistic butterfly brooches, which she calls her "mobile art". These sweet fluttering butterflies are inspired by the designer's signature Four Seasons collection and depict the metamorphosis of a butterfly. The undulating surfaces are each "painted" with precious jewels: sapphires and diamonds to depict spring; rich emeralds and gorgeous red rubies for summer; warm autumnal yellow diamonds; and frozen white diamonds for winter. Maybe her butterflies are too laden with gemstones for actual flight, but they look amazing on.
With all their delicacy and fragility, butterflies are a personal favourite of Chao, who is auctioning a magnificent Black Label Masterpiece Ballerina Butterfly this autumn at Sotheby's in Hong Kong, which she codesigned with the actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who is a long-time admirer of Chao's work, in aid of the New York City Ballet.