Many of Michelle Ong’s best-known and best-loved creations for Carnet are floral fantasies, and especially brooches, which, explains Michelle Ong, are elegant and versatile and also give her the most freedom of form and expression.
Her flowers are always characterful, voluptuous, three-dimensional, rich in colour and dynamic in movement. This exuberant conversation-piece flower brooch shows Ong’s love of colour, her sensibility to the painterly qualities of gemstones, and her uncompromising quest for artistry and innovation, for celebrating the value of design.
The flower centre is formed by an immense cabochon tourmaline, selected for its lusciousness and meltingly soft tone, held high in a diamond sepal, and fringed with curling petals paved in pink, purple and blue sapphires, with accents of emeralds, like shadows.
The brooch has been meticulously and ingeniously crafted, using titanium for lightness, in wear, but also adding the effect of a flower, captured in full bloom, alive with the energy of nature’s unstoppable growth.
Arguably the first designer to fuse East and West influences in exquisitely refined jewels, Michelle Ong was born and raised in Hong Kong, but completed her studies at university in Toronto, Canada. Back in Hong Kong, she decided to follow her heart, her love of jewels, and it was during her apprenticeship with a gem dealer that she met diamond-merchant, Avi Nagar, who was to become her business partner. Unable to find the jewels she wanted to wear, she began to design her own, which led to orders from admiring friends, and in 1985 she joined forces with Nagar, establishing their business, named Carnet, in 1998.
Ong was one of the first, if not the first, to fuse influences and inspirations from East and West, that grew out of her background, her Hong Kong Chinese roots, and her own love of European art and culture. In her signature creations, Oriental dragons, floating clouds and shapely gourds mingle with antique lace and brocade, glimpsed in a 17th-century portrait, all channelled through European jewellery-making techniques. Ong was instrumental in reviving the use of rose-cut diamonds, applying this early European cut to coloured gems, and exploring the play of light in custom-cut rondelles and briolettes. Contemporary femininity is the essence of Ong’s style and identity; she balances power and presence with lightness and fluidity. Her diamond jewels that recreate organdie or tulle float like silk on the skin, while her spectacular drop earrings cascade with light, colour, and movement. She is equally renowned for her use of intense colour, particularly in monumental brooches, sculpted as flowers, fruit, or feathers, and for her imaginatively bejewelled watches, created to complement her jewels, and intensity their glamour.