Why diamonds are Hong Kong jewellery designer Nicholas Lieou’s best friend

a person posing for the camera: Hong Kong-based jewellery designer Nicholas Lieou. Photo: Erik Lee Snyder

Hong Kong-based jewellery designer Nicholas Lieou. Photo: Erik Lee Snyder

How did your partnership with Sotheby’s Diamonds come about? “I had wanted to work with Sotheby’s Diamonds for a while and then they approached me. It was mutual. They showed me their diamond selection and I sent them a few designs.

“I wanted to start with nature. I started from seeds and pods; that’s where a lot of the shapes come from, like this ring in the shape of a cocoon that encapsulates a green diamond.”

High jewellery is often associated with big pieces and older customers. What are you doing differently?”High jewellery can be very heavy. Those necklaces are beautiful but difficult to wear and meant for special occasions. I tried to make this collection more ‘everyday’, items that people can wear casually. Normally you don’t wear a six-carat diamond during the day but I wanted to do something modern. Some pieces are transformable to give options.”

Were you aiming to speak to younger customers with this collection? “Yes, this collection is for the next generation. The older generation tends to want things more fussy. It’s an old-school way of thinking: if I have a lot around the stone it makes it worth it, so it’s more gold and more labour involved.”

a close up of a necklace: A ring inspired by a cocoon from Nicholas Lieou for Sotheby's Diamonds' collection. Photo: Handout

© Provided by South China Morning Post
A ring inspired by a cocoon from Nicholas Lieou for Sotheby’s Diamonds’ collection. Photo: Handout

What’s your favourite stone? “I do love diamonds. My work is very black and white and clean so I feel diamonds suit that. My aesthetic is clean but my lines are soft and smooth, sinewy. I don’t like sharp corners. I feel that when you put jewellery on, it needs to go with the body’s curves. Sometimes when it’s too angular it can look cool but you have to be a certain character or in a certain mood to pull it off.”

What do you think of lab-grown diamonds? “I like that it gives people an option. I think people who buy natural diamonds will still buy natural but I’m often disappointed that lab-grown manufacturers and the jewellers who use them are not thinking outside the box. They use lab-grown diamonds to mimic real diamonds but I would prefer if they used them to make things that a real diamond cannot make.”

a close up of a plate: Earrings by Nicholas Lieou for Sotheby's Diamonds. Photo: Handout

© Provided by South China Morning Post
Earrings by Nicholas Lieou for Sotheby’s Diamonds. Photo: Handout

You’ve worked in New York, for Tiffany & Co. Are there advantages to being based in Hong Kong? “Everything is so global nowadays, you can be based anywhere. A lot of stone-cutters and dealers are here. Hong Kong is one of the greatest hubs for diamonds and you have access to specific stones. My workshop is here. In New York they have workshops that can do amazing things but it’s very expensive. Starting out, I would find it difficult to make things for the right price.”

Is there a designer you admire? “I like design solutions with inter-active designs, so someone like Thomas Heatherwick and his architecture. That’s where my transformable jewellery comes in. If a piece can be worn only one way, you have to feel like wearing it in its entirety, but, giving the option to wear it a different way, that for me is a design solution.”

What’s your earliest jewellery-related memory? “I made my mum a pearl bracelet out of beads when I was six or seven. Unbeknown to me she brought it to her jeweller and had a real one made. Mine was just plastic but she had it made in real pearls and stones.”

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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