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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cindy Chao’s Masterpiece Royal Butterfly Added to Smithsonian Gem Collection

Masterpiece Royal Butterfly, front view.

Cindy Chao has made a bit of history by becoming the first Taiwanese jewelry designer to have a work included into the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History.

Chao’s Masterpiece Royal Butterfly will be added to the museum’s celebrated gem collection on March 5 in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals. The 2009 creation, part of Chao’s Black Label collection, was gifted to the museum by the artist.

The Royal Butterfly is composed of 2,328 gems, totaling 77 carats. The brooch is set with fancy-colored and color-changing sapphires (16.64cts.), rubies (8.74cts.), diamonds (19.67cts.), rough diamonds (16.63cts.), emerald-cut diamonds (1.64cts.), yellow diamonds (4.75cts.), fancy-colored diamonds (4.75cts.), and tsavorite garnets. The centerpieces of the butterfly’s wings contain four large faceted diamond slices stacked atop a pave layer of faceted diamonds, creating a pattern resembling the microstructure and scale of a living butterfly’s wings.

Masterpiece Royal Butterfly, back view.

When viewed under ultraviolet light, the brooch evokes what the Smithsonian describes as a “surreal quality,” with many of the gemstones appearing fluorescent and animate through an array of bright colors and reflected light. While some gems may appear colorless in daylight, under ultraviolet light they can burn a bright blue or green. Others burn a fiery orange or red.

Since the piece will be viewed by daylight, images of the Royal Butterfly under ultraviolet light will be featured on the museum’s website.

“The awe-inspiring array of colorful and glistening gems are indicative of Cindy Chao’s masterful designs,” said Jeff Post, curator of the museum’s Gems and Minerals collection. “She has artfully combined design, gem and setting to create a unique, exquisite jeweled butterfly.”

Chao’s artistry, her attention to detail and her architectural understanding is gained from her father who is a sculptor and her grandfather who was a noted Taiwanese architect.

She founded her company, Cindy Chao The Art Jewel, in 2004. In 2007, she became the first Taiwanese jewelry artist to take part in a Christie’s New York fine jewelry auction. Chao’s Black Label Masterpieces consist of one-of-kind jewelry artworks, limited to 36 pieces per year. Each Masterpiece is handcrafted over a period of at least two years, working from an original sketch and a wax mold and with rare, fine gemstones, which ultimately forges the three-dimensional works of art. Chao is considered by many to be one of the world’s most outstanding contemporary jewelry artisans, whose collections are pursued globally by influential and expert art connoisseurs.

“I believe that a piece of jewelry can reflect the history of an era, and being inducted into a leading institution like the Smithsonian is a dream for any artist, Chao said. “It is humbling to know that millions of visitors will be able to experience the Black Label Masterpiece Royal Butterfly brooch and be exposed to my art of high jewelry craftsmanship and creativity.”

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