The butterfly has been a constantly recurring motif in jewelry for centuries, but few are better at creating the winged insect than Cindy Chao. Looking at Chao’s annual butterfly creations from her first one in 2008 till the present shows her progression as a world-class high jewelry artist over the years.
Chao’s latest bejeweled butterfly, the “2023 Black Label Masterpiece Amour Butterfly Brooch,” is the centerpiece of an exhibition titled, “Meld in Light and Shade- Amour Butterfly Exhibition” at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai. The museum show runs till October 6.
Opening the exhibition with Chao on September 9 was Oscar-winning actress, Michelle Yeoh, who wore the new “2023 Black Label Masterpiece II Pamir Brooch” paired with the “White Label Collection Emerald Architectural Earrings” and the “White Label Collection Emerald Branch Ring.”
This tenth annual butterfly creation by Chao’s brand, “Cindy Chao The Art Jewel,” took five years to complete. Chao sculpted the piece for a collector couple whom she has known for two decades. She says the work of art represents her deep friendship between the artist and the collectors, as well as the love and heritage of two generations of the collectors’ family.
European master craftsmen took more than 15,000 hours to make the butterfly come to life. The Amour Butterfly Brooch features an overlapping, intertwined double butterfly with three-dimensional, fully stretched wings, “integrating boundless imagination into natural life, and challenging the multiple transformations between light and shadow,” Chao says.
To create the piece Chao used light and strong titanium, which presents a delicate appearance to the bejeweled crusted creation. The edge of each wing is mounted with an hexagonal sugarloaf Colombia emerald, weighing 29.18 carats and 27.52 carats. For insect’s body in the center, Chao chose to use an 8.31-carat type IIa marquise-cut diamond framed by European ox horn shaped to complement the form of the elongated diamond. The wings are paved with diamonds, yellow diamonds, brown diamonds and aquamarines. The colorful veins within the wings are made with blue sapphires, emeralds, demantoid garnets and tsavorites.
The annual butterfly brooches are part of the Chao’s annual Black Label Masterpieces, the most valuable pieces created by the Taiwanese high jewelry artist each year.
To plan the exhibition space and set design, Chao once again collaborated with Dutch architect and sculptor Tom Postma, whom she has worked with for her exhibition space at TEFAF Maastricht, previous exhibitions and for her most recent boutiques.
They worked with an international team from Belgium, Singapore, the Netherlands and Germany. Together, they created a display case that appears to levitate, along what they describe as the “longest floating path in the world.” “The Amour Butterfly Brooch appears to float in the air, dancing with the music, creating a surreal spectacle of the lightness of a butterfly in flight,” Chao says.
The levitating system was developed by the Belgian team, who she says combined modern physics in technology and optical illusion art, accompanied by a customized light system.
“The absence of any display stands enables the Amour Butterfly to magically float midair with a multitude of movements,” Chao says.
The glass of the showcase was created by a Singaporean art team specializing in custom-made museum-caliber glass with a reflectivity of only 1%. It allows visitors to have an unobstructed view of all the details on both the front and the back of the Amour Butterfly, as well as the exquisite changes from all directions that follow visual and perceptual cues.
The teams from Germany and the Netherlands customized the lighting system for the exhibition. The light sources complement the dynamic movements of the brooch, allowing the artwork to be seamlessly integrated with the environment.
“The fluttering Amour Butterfly showcases the lightness and agility of the brand’s artistic works while presenting its creative essence of architectural, sculptural and organic in the best way,” Chao says.