By Christa Van Eerde
We speak to jewellery designer Sarah Ho about her Full Circle project that gets its name from tracking the journey of the centre stone starting with its discovery right through to cutting and polishing and on to the design and making of the jewel. The stones are carefully sourced from traceable supply chains that meet ethical and environmental standards. What's more, proceeds from the sale of the jewels are allocated to benefit the location where the centre stone of each jewel was found.
Sarah Ho was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Macau before moving to London, where she now lives with her husband, Samuele, and their two children. She studied fashion and jewellery design at the London Metropolitan University (London Met) and has studied gemmology at the HRD in Antwerp. Sarah sketches all her designs and then works closely with her workshop in Italy where the creations come to life. She often offers her customers the original gouache rendering along with the finished piece, a reminder of the level of customisation of each jewel and a special added touch. Sarah Ho 's UK team is made up of three women based in the firm's new Mayfair showroom, soon to open to the public.
How did you begin designing jewellery?
I have always had a love of jewellery; from playing with my grandmother’s jewels when I was a little girl to being given my own pieces that I cherished as I was growing up. The significant moments throughout my life were often marked by a piece of jewellery. I began studying fashion in London and soon my eye for detail and ornamentation led me to jewellery design. With my passion for colour and pattern, a career in design was the clear choice for me.
What I appreciate most in your work is the sense of dynamism and movement along with unexpected details. Can you tell me about your design process?
Patterns are incredibly fascinating to me, and it is within the structure of a pattern that you can create movement and dynamism. My delicate lacework and the repetition of stones in a certain way can create fluidity, a graceful flow of lines and colours that can make solid gold appear light and flexible.
My design process has definitely evolved over the years, and I trust my instinct more and more. I do like and prefer to start from the gemstone, as this can bring unexpected ideas and take me in new directions. My signature style shines through because I will always mix and match gemstones, settings, stone cuts and add in my delicate lace.
What inspires you? Is there a particular era, person, or place that you gravitate towards?
My inspiration comes from everywhere. Probably most obvious is my Asian background – you may see design elements that refer to Chinese culture, architecture and art in my creations. I also studied the Art Deco era and am constantly looking at patterned textiles for new ideas and textures.
For your next Full Circle creation, are you looking for any stone in particular to work with?
I do not have one in mind. The stones are selected for their exceptional quality and rarity. The main criteria is that the stone is traceable and the supply chain meets ethical and environmental standards. We work only with suppliers that we know well and have similar goals with regards to improving and sustaining the surrounding environment and communities. For example, I knew I wanted to partner with Gem Forest and Suwaidi Pearls after meeting both companies and discovering our shared interest and passion for giving back to the environment and the communities that supply these beautiful stones.
The origin of gemstones is increasingly important along with traceability and ethical sourcing. In light of this, how did Full Circle Project begin and how did you choose to work with Gem Forest and Suwaidi Pearls?
I have always adored gemstones and this project ensures a legacy for their future as well as the environment and the communities that find them. By knowing where the stones have come from and who played a role in shaping them, we can ensure that the supply chain is safe and ethical. I am working closely with my launch partners, the leading suppliers Gem Forest of Switzerland and Suwaidi Pearls of the United Arab Emirates, to target the areas in which help is needed by offering education and resources to protect the local lands. The Full Circle Project will begin work planting trees in Madagascar and cleaning the waters in the bay of the Arabian Gulf.
I chose to liaise with Gem Forest because they specialise in sourcing the best quality gemstones based on responsible practices. Its founder, Alex Leuenberger, is passionate about gemstones and an expert in his field. He has spent his life collecting and curating gems, working directly with the mines in countries such as Madagascar, Tanzania, Mozambique and Vietnam. Alex carefully manages the journey of his gemstones from the mine to the finished polished gem and plans to work with local communities to plant trees in Madagascar.
Suwaidi Pearls is based in the UAE and specialises in the finest Arabian Pearls in the region. The Suwaidi family has been connected to the pearl industry for generations and they are now continuing the family legacy and produce the finest cultured Arabian Pearls in the region. They are passionate about their work and the ‘Pearl of Arabia’ Ring features the largest and most perfect pearl to be farmed there so far, previously in Abdulla Suwaidi’s private collection. They are actively involved in regenerating the local mangroves, cleaning the lagoons and supporting educational projects.
I launched the Full Circle with eight masterpieces in 2018. From here I am working towards all my jewellery following in these footsteps to ensure each stone is traceable and brings benefits where they are most needed.
What advice would you give people entering the realm of jewellery design today?
Be true to yourself. There are many avenues to take with jewellery design, working in gold or silver, creating collections or one-offs, but as long you design from the heart you will always be happy with your creations.
What can we look forward to next?
Oh, so many things! I have been experimenting with enamel in my collection 'Candy' as another way to add more colour. I am continually evolving and have lots of designs in the early stages, so you will have to wait and see!
Sarah Ho designing the ‘Pearl of Arabia' ring which will feature an Arabian Pearl from the UAE found in 2010. Previously it was in Abdulla Suwaidi’s private collection.
Sarah Ho wanted to partner with Suwaidi Pearls after discovering a shared interest and passion for giving back to the environment and communities that supply these beautiful pearls.
The stones are selected for their exceptional quality and rarity. The main criteria is that the stone is traceable and the supply chain meets ethical and environmental standards.
Sarah Ho was born in Hong Kong and studied fashion and jewellery design at the London Metropolitan University and gemmology at the HRD in Antwerp. Sarah sketches all her designs and then works closely with her workshop in Italy.