Award-winning designer Sarah Ho was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Macau before moving to London to enrich her skills in design and gemology. Sarah’s designs are a sentimental reflection of the different chapters in her life and her family heritage. We spoke with Sarah to find out more about how her memories and values inform the way she approaches fine jewelry.
PHILLIPS: Is there one piece you associate particularly with your birthplace, Hong Kong?
SARAH HO: The Jade Cuff. In Asia, Jade has a special importance within Chinese culture—it is said to offer protection. My grandmother gifted me a beautiful jade pendant that inspired me to design my first jade collection.
I acquired some beautiful and unusual Imperial Jade and was excited to create some striking, modern jewelry as a contrast to the traditional symbolism of jade. It was fun to arrange these stones and play with different elements to make a bold design. This cuff captures my signature style of combining lacework, diamonds in different cuts and unusual cuts of Imperial Jade to create a strong piece of jewelry.
P: Which one among these jewels was the most challenging to execute from design to finished piece?
SH: This was my Persica conch pearl suite that features rare conch pearls along with South Sea pearls and different shaped diamonds. Conch pearls are natural so are not uniform in shape but the triangular shape is even more difficult to find and it took me two years to collect all the pearls I needed for this suite. The colors range from peach to pink to pale yellow—called tutti frutti—amazing that conch shells can create such a variety of colors. These pearls are so rare; I wanted to create a design for them that would honor their beauty and rarity. Looking at the colors of the conch, I looked to the Peach Blossom as inspiration, which led to me creating delicate petal like shapes around each conch, and with a classic element of elegant South Sea pearls.
P: Could you pick one piece from the exhibition that you would wear on a daily basis?
SH: My Candy Conch Ring. I just fell in love with it. I wouldn’t recommend wearing it every day as the conch pearl is very delicate but it’s definitely one of my favorite pieces from the collection. I think the drama of this bright and rare jewel embraces where I am today.
On the other hand, there’s my Numerati no 9 ring—I love that too and wear it every day as it is my lucky number.
P: What can you tell us about the Numerati series—how are they meant to be viewed and worn?
SH: This is a collection of lucky number rings, where the design lets the finger cleverly hide the number when it’s worn so it becomes a hidden secret.
Growing up in Hong Kong and Macau, I learnt the importance of certain numbers in Asian culture. For example, the number 3 represents birth, 8 for money and 9 for longevity. The power of numbers is also something that is very meaningful for my family. For us it is definitely the numbers 8 & 9. I remember it not only runs through our telephone numbers and car number plates—anything that’s associated with numbers you will see the 8 or 9 in them. Now in my adult life, I find myself very much drawn to (or fascinated by) numerology and the number 9 is actually my lucky number as well.
Each number has a significant meaning and reveals characteristics that can help understand and discover your life.
P: What inspired you to launch the Full Circle project? How is the process of bringing to life a Full Circle jewel different from that of your other creations?
SH: I think it is very important to value our beautiful world and the amazing natural gemstones it can produce. As a designer, I feel like I am constantly taking and wanted to find a way of giving back and to combine this with my love of jewelry together.
The Full Circle project is where I am working with rare special gemstones, some of which have been chosen from the personal collections of our gem and pearls partners. I have taken each of these gemstones and designed a unique piece of jewelry to celebrate their beauty.
Once the pieces are sold, a percentage of the profit is donated to community and environmental projects in areas where our gemstones are sourced, such as Madagascar. This completes the circle and is our way of giving back.
P: How would you describe the signature elements of your designs? What makes a piece distinctly ‘Sarah Ho?’
SH: A Sarah Ho piece of jewelry will always have a unique combination of colors with different cuts of gemstones alongside intricate metal lacework. My aesthetic will always represent me—my strength and love of stones and it will evolve as I continue to grow as a person and a designer.