By Ashley Davis
This “Graceful Peony” brooch from Carnet by Michelle Ong was created in 2008. It features white diamonds, rubies, pink sapphires and garnets in 18-karat white gold and titanium. © 2018 Carnet Jewelry
New York—In the introduction to the new book “Carnet by Michelle Ong,” Vivienne Becker writes that the designer “prefers to let her jewels speak for themselves,” and “is unapologetically reluctant to talk about her work.”

20190506 Carnet wraptextCourtesy Thames & Hudson

Not an easy subject, then, for author and jewelry historian Becker to tackle.

But no matter. The tome is a visual feast, full of 263 illustrations—primarily large-scale photographs, as well as a few sketches—providing a best-of compilation of the Hong Kong-based designer’s more than 25 years of work.

Though not even a picture of Ong herself can be found in its pages, in “Carnet by Michelle Ong” the jewels do all the talking.

Divided into somewhat overlapping categories like “Nature” and “Flora,” each jewel nearly jumps off the page, whether one turns to an elaborate, graphic jadeite and diamond collar with emeralds, purple sapphires, and garnets in 18-karat white gold and titanium, or chances upon a massive reddish-brown diamond bracelet accented by brown and white diamonds in 18-karat white gold and titanium.

Each tonal masterpiece translates its original, natural inspiration into a technical feat of high jewelry.

According to Becker, Ong was a pioneer in mixing eastern and western influences in her designs. Her creations often incorporate jade or, occasionally, a dragon or fan motif. Even a ubiquitous jadeite bangle is transformed when intertwined in a net of colored gemstones, repurposing the item into a brooch.

With the designer’s recent exhibition of one-of-a-kind pieces at Christie’s New York’s Magnificent Jewels sale, “Carnet by Michelle Ong” is an essential jewelry read in 2019.

With a foreword from fellow one-of-a-kind high jeweler Joel Arthur Rosenthal—professionally known as JAR—the book is out from Thames & Hudson on June 11 and priced at $95.


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