By Francesca Fearon
For its debut at Baselworld, Zhaoyi gave an insight into the ancient mysteries of the Orient's passion for jade jewellery with a mouth-watering display of translucent, colourless and green jade, along with exquisite filigree gold-marked jewellery. The Beijing-based jeweller is widely known in China with stores dotted across the country, and in Hong Kong and Macau for its collection of highly prized jade jewellery, but this was its first venture into Europe. A store in Paris is next on Zhaoyi's wish list.
Jade jewellery is synonymous with Chinese culture, treasured for more than three Millennia, and some of Zhaoyi's finest quality examples were brought to Basel, including beautiful colourless jadeite pendants. The best jadeite is categorised as "glassy", "icy" and "glutinous", and these shiny, cabochon pendants were as translucent as melting icicles.
Mounting the jadeite with precious stones, Zhaoyi's Hong Kong-based design team, led by Grace Lee, is creating a more contemporary aesthetic for jade jewellery and shedding some of its traditional Chinese associations. While the jeweller is pioneering a trend towards the more accessibly priced colourless jade, icy green jade is deemed the most valuable. In the collection, the precious, smooth glossy green jade cabochons are set with diamonds on exquisite bib and pendant necklaces. The glassiest green jade fetches the highest prices.
Zhaoyi also works with lavender and black jade. Black jade is extremely rare and the very best take on a beautiful green tone when lifted to the light. Set in fine filigree gold - another house speciality and a skill that dates back more than 2,000 years - these designs are popular with both Chinese and Western audiences.
Zhaoyi was founded in Beijing in 2003 and, in 2012, was named by the American luxury lifestyle magazine, The Robb Report, as one of China's top 10 emerging luxury jewellery brands. It has since become a leader in high-end jewellery craftsmanship for its expertise in working with jadeite and gold filigree.