Interview from Hong Kong: Carnet's exquisite treasures

Exclusive interview with Michelle Ong, creative visionary at Carnet, reveals dazzling jewels in mesmerising colours and exquisite forms.

Carnet Sapphire Swim brooch

‘Never compromise,’ is Michelle Ong’s motto and one that she lives and breathes by. Just seeing one of her Carnet creations is enough to understand that this is a jeweller like no other where there is not a micron of space for compromise. And you don’t just have to take my word for it. JAR, the revered and elusive king of high jewellery, is an ardent fan and a friend of Ms. Ong. Under the Carnet brand, with her business partner and gemstone guru Avi Nagar, over the past two decades Ms. Ong has redefined high jewellery, taking our breath away with her dazzling body of museum-worthy work. It's no surprise that Carnet was the choice of the stars of the film Crazy Rich Asians, who epitomised Eastern glamour and sophistication. 

Like a soft breeze blowing from the East, Ms. Ong’s sensitivity and exquisite sense of colour elegantly dispense with the formality of traditional European high jewellery. Carnet creates miniature objects that effortlessly inspire awe and wonder. Lean in closer and soak in the experience as each jewel is a visual feast, a sublime pleasure that never fades. The ephemeral moment of a flower springing into full bloom, the split-second of a rippling fin of a tropical fish or a cloud floating by, are crystallised into eternal moments  of beauty. In Carnet’s enchanted world, diamonds yield their dominion and flow softly like water, some pausing to form drops on a leaf. Sapphires cluster in puffy clouds and rubies glow like embers on the skin of a writhing dragon. Each is a delightful treat for the eyes and the senses that bring a sense of innocent wonder; a window into a miniature world that reminds us of the pure joy of true luxury.

Carnet Diamond and Huaynite earrings
Modified heart-shape diamonds are surrounded by a ripple of rubies, vivid blue huaynite and diamonds in these Carnet earrings.

But tricking gravity, mimicking the undulating forms of a tropical fish or setting diamonds on a gossamer thin wings is very hard work indeed. Which is why Ms. Ong never compromises. Her team of stone-cutter, carvers, gem-setter and goldsmiths are her accomplices. With Mr. Nagar on hand to source the very best gemstones in the world, Ms. Ong starts out with a clear advantage. But being the best is not enough but a good first step.  More often than not, showing a fierce tough love, the finest colour gemstones are re-cut to achieve the pitch-perfect hue, diamonds are whittled down to reveal a more beautiful and pure soul. As each jewel is a one-off, the care lavished on its production is driven by the highest levels of perfection that Ms. Ong demands. ‘I am not afraid of the truth,’ says Ms. Ong who despite the other worldly beauty of her works is a straight talker. In the firm’s own workshops, metal is the enemy and colour and form are the heroines who must be freed from the bounds that weigh down lesser jewels.  

So what a privilege it is to have Ms. Ong in a rare interview to share with us her world and some of her newer dazzling jewels. Always self-effacing and downplaying her talent, Ms. Ong joins Maria Doulton for a ‘Tea with Maria’ interview from the firm’s Hong Kong where the world of Carnet is more fully revealed than words alone can express.


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