Michelle Ong — founder of Carnet, the boutique jewelry house based in Hong Kong — uses few animal motifs in her intricately crafted work. But what she does use is spectacular.
The “Dancing Dragon” brooch, which she first created in 1999, undulates across two pages in Vivienne Becker’s forthcoming “Carnet by Michelle Ong” (June 11, Thames & Hudson, $95, 272 pages), its emerald and ruby scales set off in platinum, 18-karat white gold and silver; its diamantine eyes blazing. In another iteration from 2008, the dragon whips up its ruby and emerald tail, ready to pounce.
Despite its symbolic origins in the alligators that live in the Yangtze and other Chinese rivers, the dragon is not a fearsome creature in China. Rather he is “fiercely benign” — a protector, a securer of the harvest, a cosmic spirit and a symbol of imperial power.
As Ong tells Becker, “The oriental dragon is very different from the Western dragon; it is an auspicious, benevolent creature, with many different incarnations that leave me a great deal of room for imaginative interpretation.”
While Ong is steeped in the materials and associations of her culture — see her magnificent jadeite “Celestial Dragon” brooch (2001), unfurled across two pages amid swirls of diamond and pink and blue sapphire clouds — she is also a lover of such Western movements as Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Art Nouveau (1890-1910) made great use of the dragonfly, so-called because it was thought that the devil turned St. George’s horse into a giant flying insect after he slew the demonic dragon.
Ong’s dragonfly brooches soar on jadeite and/or diamond wings from their perch in her imagination.
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