In our new monthly feature, Associate Editor Ashley Davis converses with jewelry designers about three of their creations that are particularly meaningful. Our inaugural installment begins with visionary designer Wendy Yue.

Like many devotees, my relationship with fine jewelry started at a young age, but it only really blossomed when I began covering the market at the beginning of 2014.

I received my Fine Jewelry 101 crash course that year through frequent visits and conversations at the now-shuttered Fragments showroom, which housed a huge variety of fine and costume jewelry brands.

Wendy Yue was one of the behind-the-locked-glass-case masterpieces in the backroom. Every time I visited Fragments I instantly gravitated there, drawn by the magnetic force of Yue’s visions made tangible through exquisite execution and stunning color.

Yue has been in business under her own name for about eight years, and was a ghost designer for decades prior. Her work behind-the-scenes has left its mark; she’s a woman who speaks through her art and doesn’t seek personal glory or attention.

Nonetheless, this new column--3 Pieces--was born out of a desire to understand talented jewelry designers’ creative processes, what makes them tick, which of their pieces are their favorites and why.

I’m starting with Yue, because who could resist getting into the head of a talent as visionary as she?

As we began our interview, she immediately confessed that she was shy and not good with words. “I’ll do my best to give you my answers,” she told me with a self-deprecating laugh.

Despite these proclamations, as the designer who opened my eyes to what is possible in fine jewelry design, I can’t think of a more appropriate subject for my first 3 Pieces column.

Below, Yue explains the significance of three pieces that resonate with her.

20160616 3pieces-wendy-yue-2Wendy Yue’s 18-karat white gold ring with morganite, zircon, blue sapphires, champagne diamonds and pink sapphires, 2016 ($12,900)

Wendy Yue:
This is a scarab with a morganite stone and a Paraiba tourmaline on the top, from this year’s collection.

Being in the jewelry design industry, I always like to bring something new to the market and I don’t know if you have noticed in the past couple of years, but there have been a lot of designers doing similar kind of nature designs [to mine]. I want to be unique from them but still carry my original character, which is the nature kind of style.

One day I was playing with the two stones (morganite and Paraiba) and I put them together and I noticed that if I put a stone on top of the other one, with a certain millimeter height difference, the top stone could actually bring out a better color from the bottom stone. It’s actually quite an interesting effect.

A lot of the ladies in the market like big stones and I like the classical, big colored stones as well but I want to do something different, so I combined the two stones and the classic nature motif of my design and created this collection.

I’m actually quite crazy about stones. I have a safe of stones as big as my bedroom. It sounds crazy but I have so many stones. I just like to collect stones and play with them. Whenever I have time, I take out my stones and I will think of a design around them.

“I have a safe of stones as big as my bedroom.”

Some of my pieces are inspired by dreams. Another piece in the collection similar to this has an emerald on top of an aquamarine, surrounded by snakes. When I was little I had almost every other day, dreams of snakes, all around my house. So I would climb up onto my house furniture and this ring actually kind of feels like that, with the big stone on the top of the ring. It’s kind of like what I remember in my dreams.

Dreaming about snakes is a good sign.

20160616 3pieces-wendy-yue-3Wendy Yue’s 18-karat white gold earrings with green jade, pearls, grey jade, tsavorite, white sapphires and black diamonds, 2014 ($8,720)

The dragonfly earrings have green jade at the top and gray jade on the wings and pearls at the end. This is the earring that is the all-time best seller in my collection. It’s a model that everybody loves. Even Michelle Obama has picked this earring and worn it at one of her events.

Now if you look at my green jade flower, this is a very unique jade. It is limited edition, I don’t think you can find it easily in the market now because of its rich green color.

This piece tells the story of a dragonfly. You see dragonflies only before it rains, so in the old days we were happy when we saw dragonflies because we knew it was going to rain and rain is a good sign as long as it’s not a rain storm.

And everybody loves pearls. So I connected the pearls and the rain story together with the dragonflies.

I designed these I think at the end of 2014. But it’s an all-time popular earring. It has been in my collection and has been getting a very good response and everybody loves it. So people don’t mind if it’s from 2014 or not.

The pavé is tsavorites with diamonds on the edge. I am good at doing graduated colored stones, fading color, from dark to light. This is one of my signatures. Since the beginning of the trend, I believe I was one of the top few that played well with this kind of colored stone, because when I choose my colored stones I am very picky about the reflections and the cutting of the stones, which is very important if I do a degrading color from dark to light.

I started to play with the jade flower first because, you know, dragonflies hop around plants, flowers and over the water, so that’s the kind of concept that I put together.

20160616 3pieces-wendy-yue-1Wendy Yue’s 18-karat rose gold bangle with blue, yellow, pink, brown and white sapphires, spinel, tsavorite, white and champagne diamonds, and black opal ($15,100)

This is from this year. This idea is from the Noah’s Ark story, so I wanted to put all the animals, instead of in the boat, on the wrist. I tried to put everything that is relating to the Noah’s Ark story onto the cuff and just make it my style.

The cabochon is a black opal. On the tree I used tsavorite. I have blue sapphires, yellow sapphires, pink sapphires and colored diamonds on the monkey and giraffe. I have black diamonds with the colored stones for the zebra too.

This bangle took me a long time. It took me about a year because when it comes to making animals, I am very straight with my goldsmith because I want my jewelry to look like real-life animals. So I had to change them all the time to correct the shapes of the animals and the positions of them and how they could fit together and still be worn comfortably on the wrist.

“I want my jewelry to look like real-life animals.”

I sketch first, then I create my designs in wax and for some of my pieces I make them in silver. Here I had to assemble them together in silver and have it tried on the wrist before the final piece.

That’s why it took me a year. Normally, it would take me about six months to do a big piece.

Actually, I have a whole collection of this cuff. I still haven’t finished it yet; the other bangles aren’t done because I really would like them to be the most beautiful. It will come out within this year I believe. This cuff is one of the first pieces.

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