Have you ever imagined a bracelet in the form of a current, with splashes from a powerful waterfall? This piece won the Tahitian Pearl Trophy 2003 Asia. Its winning designer, Lily Wong, has entered more than 20 competitions since 1989 and won over ten major prizes - and is the design supervisor of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Company Limited.
Where does she get all her ideas? "I like to think as I look around. I'll look at a chair and think about the colours and curves and wonder how they can be interpreted in jewellery design," Ms Wong says. "The idea can be from something as small as a mobile phone string or as grand as a piece of architecture."
Besides keeping her eyes open, she keeps herself abreast of design trends by reading magazines and attending exhibitions overseas, such as in Italy.
In the profession for over 17 years, how did Ms Wong start? "I always had a great interest in drawing, so I took a graphic design course. Then I started to work in Chow Tai Fook through a relative's recommendation. Later, I was recommended by the company to study a three-year certificate programme in jewellery design," she says.
"I began as a design assistant and learnt everything from the basics. You need to understand each and every process of jewellery-making, such as casting and precious stone-setting, as well as electroplating and polishing, in order to make a design work for you."
Chow Tai Fook employs ten designers, of whom five are experienced designers and the remainder design assistants. Production is all done in-house by the designers and other teams and can easily take up to three months. For example, this year's Christmas product line team - comprising managers, designers and production team personnel working on the product theme, design issues, time-line and branch distribution - has already been assembled and started working.
As many industries have developed their market in the mainland, the company has its own factories in China. In addition, it has about 150 branches there, but it aims to raise this number to 300. By contrast, Hong Kong only has 30 branches, partly as physical space is a consideration, but also because China still has much room for customer growth.
Although 90 percent of customers come from Hong Kong and China, the two groups differ in terms of taste. "Hong Kong people prefer diamonds to gold. [This applies to] the young and the old,' says Ms Wong. "In China, people are still very much into purchasing gold for its value. They also buy gold to give as presents, for weddings and other occasions. They are also more traditional and older than their Hong Kong counterparts. "
Potential jewellery designers are advised to keep an open mind "for new things and ideas", Ms Wong adds. "That is the source of your inspiration. You must have a lot of patience. Jewellery-making is a rather long and meticulous process. It is not only the design you are concerned with, but also whether and how the design will work for the product. Lastly, you should be humble and willing to learn."
Joining a short jewellery course and finding out more before you enter the profession is helpful, Ms Wong believes. However, she notes that this is a highly satisfying career: "It feels wonderful when you see your idea come true and turn into a product. It's a refreshing experience, because I learn and see something new every day!"