NEW YORK — For the 2014 edition of her Black Label Masterpiece Butterfly, Cindy Chao teamed with a special friend — Sarah Jessica Parker.
This story first appeared in the July 2, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The piece, a brooch named Ballerina Butterfly, marks the first collaboration for the Taiwan-born designer, and her sixth creation within the Masterpiece Butterfly collection. The collaboration with Parker, whom Chao calls a “fast friend,” came about after the actress attended Chao’s Beijing exhibition in 2011. Following an impromptu chat about a possible partnership, the duo decided to work together on Chao’s next signature butterfly design.
“It was a really natural, organic conversation,” said Chao. “I’m so used to doing my own thing, but Sarah Jessica was so easy to work with. The two of us are very different creatively. She has a great sense of fashion and such a special eye for anything that’s style related. On the other side, my focus is definitely jewelry. But when we talk, I feel like she really understands me and has an appreciation for the work that I’m doing.”
The ballerina theme of the brooch came about just as naturally. According to the designer, the inspiration comes from Parker’s affiliation with the New York City Ballet, as well as the dichotomy of femininity and strength, which Chao works to infuse into all of her work.“It took us about six months to get the first design right,” said Chao. “Sarah Jessica is so feminine, while my work is really bold. I had to change the design a few times to really make sure that it’s representative of both Cindy Chao and Sarah Jessica Parker, as well as the power of the ballet.”
The resulting brooch is constructed of a titanium and 18-karat gold body. The piece includes a 26.27-carat brown diamond, three brown diamond slices weighing 47.71 carats in total and three pieces of conch pearls totaling 7.25 carats, as well as 4,698 additional diamonds that collectively weigh 98.09 carats. The piece was crafted over the course of two years, during which Chao would fly to Geneva, where the construction took place, about once a year. Given the length of construction, Chao opted to skip putting out a Masterpiece Butterfly for 2013, waiting instead until this piece was completed. The designer first saw the piece just less than a month ago. “I was so nervous, but it definitely met my expectations,” said Chao. “I can say, very proudly, that both Sarah Jessica and I captured the essence of a ballerina.”
Chao will only have a short time alone with her creation. Ballerina Butterfly will make its public debut on Monday as part of Paris Couture Week. From there, the brooch will travel throughout Asia before landing in New York for the New York City Ballet’s Fall Gala, where Chao and Parker will serve as cochairs. The brooch will eventually be auctioned off at the Sotheby’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Sale in October.
Keeping with the theme of the collaboration, net proceeds of the auction of the brooch will benefit the New York City Ballet. The piece is estimated to garner between $750,000 and $950,000. Chao’s last Masterpiece Butterfly put up for auction, 2012’s Transcendence Butterfly, was initially estimated by Christie’s Geneva to reach $260,000. The piece ultimately sold for $952.866.
The release of Ballerina Butterfly coincides with the 10th anniversary of Chao’s company. She related the milestone to her initial and ongoing fascination with the butterfly itself. “They have such short life spans in comparison to humans, but they use their life so wholly,” explained Chao. “Whenever you see a butterfly, they are dancing. As human beings, our life spans are also not too long. It’s what you’ve done and what you leave behind that counts. [Each piece] shows the metamorphosis of myself as a person. Each piece is an advancement.”