Giving jewelry a new sparkle
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  • Jimmy at
  • November 07, 2016

 Aster Ma is among young Chinese designers, who are giving their customers both contemporary designs and exquisite craftsmanship, Sun Yuanqing reports.

Chinese jewelry houses are not known for exquisite designs, but that is probably about to change as a new generation of well-informed young designers burst onto the scene.

Aster Ma, who comes from a jeweler's family, is one of them.

Her creations have been worn by the likes of US burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese and Joy Chen, the former deputy mayor of Los Angeles.

Ma, 33, who was born in Beijing and trained in London, is a name that is known among well-connected neo-rich Chinese, a group that prefers customized jewelry.

Ma's collections highlight not only the most precious materials, which are emphasized in traditional Chinese jewelry, but also speak to contemporary designs and exquisite craftsmanship.

Her collections are heavily influenced by nature, drawing inspiration from flowers and animals.

The Rose collection portrays feminine beauty through different shades of diamonds. The Lady Tears collection, inspired by a friend's wedding, is dedicated to the power of love. Jade, a traditional favorite in Chinese jewelry, is reinterpreted with diamond for a touch of modernity in bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings.

"Whatever jewelry that belongs to people, it comes from nature and is always part of nature," says Ma.

Ma, who has nurtured her clientele over the last seven years, says that Chinese customers have evolved tremendously in the past few years as they are now more exposed to international trends.

While some of her 30 clients, many of whom are successful entrepreneurs or their spouses, earlier saw jewelry as a form of investment, many now realize that the most important function of jewelry is to make the wearer look "charming and beautiful," she says.

She recalls trying on diamond rings as a child while the other kids were playing with their toys.

Ma, who has practiced ballet since she was 5 years old, is also interested in music and art.

She went to the United Kingdom to study jewelry design at University of the Arts London and returned to China in 2008.

The young jeweler struggled for a long time in making a decision whether to work for the family business or to set up her own studio, fearing how her family and friends would react if she failed.

She launched her first collection in 2009, after which she found her first client.

Her fame soon spread among the rich and the successful, and their orders can be anything from an 80-carat diamond tiara to a 10-carat ring.

Through the years, many of her clients have also become Ma's close friends.

She says that she designs jewelry based on her knowledge of the client, including their personal tastes, preferences and finger size.

Ma now runs a studio of 10 people. She opened a branch in Beijing last year, in addition to the one in Shenzhen, in order to cater to the clientele in the capital city.

As the second generation of a jeweler family, Ma is now facing the situation of inheriting the family business while focusing on her high jewelry brand.

While she describes herself as more of a jewelry designer, rather than a business woman, she is not afraid to face the challenge.

"It takes generations to build a brand in the West. For us in China, we are now trying to figure it out," she says.

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