A bespoke ring set with a striking yellow diamond became the catalyst for Edward Xú’s latest fine jewellery collection, Iper. The chinese-born maker, who began his career designing for luxury brands such as Solange Azagury-Patridge and Tateossian, playfully nicknamed the diamond Yellow Hyper-Giant HR5171, after the brightest star in the known universe. This set in motion an entire collection inspired by galaxies and stars, with the name Iper meaning Hyper in Italian, a subtle homage to the Italian client who commissioned the ring.
Using gemstones and enamel and an intense colour selection process, Edward captures the glitter and glint of stars in the sky, whilst incorporating a number of additional themes and influences. These include the cubist and art deco movements, the boldly abstract works of Fernand Léger, and even retro video games; the Chichi Ring, for example, is comprised of seventeen Cubist-coloured Tetris blocks.
Hello Edward. So, what first attracted you to the career as a maker, and how did you get started in the industry?
I came to London when I was 17 with a passion for art and design, and began studying at Central St Martins. Whilst doing a Foundation Course there, I realised that I really loved working with metals and gemstones, so I chose a BA in jewellery as my career pathway. After graduation, I worked as designer for several brands like Tateossian and Solange Azagury-Partridge, and I also worked on projects for Ermenegildo Zegna and Swarovski. I had quite a long career as a designer for different brands before I started an MA in Luxury Brand Management, which is where I found a passion to start my own brand.
After being in the industry for over ten years in total, I launched EDXÚ in 2020. It was a tough decision to start a brand during the Covid-19 lockdown, but I decided to push ahead and began working on samples and collections in workshops around Hatton Garden, and here I am, two years later.
Did your passion for design begin in childhood?
When I was growing up, I remember vividly that I loved going to antique markets in my hometown. There was this market called Tianguang that happened every weekend, and I remember going there and seeing Chinese porcelain vases, intricate wooden and acrylic jewellery boxes, and antique jewellery. All of these beautiful objects would really intrigue me. I remember when I first came to London, my friend brought me to antique markets here, like the Hackney flea market and Peckham salvage yard. Seeing fine objects that had survived decades, if not centuries, almost like treasure, really sparked my interest and my passion for woodworking, metalworking and jewellery making. I love the fact that jewellery is something that can be passed down through generations, I think that’s why I chose it as a path.
Can you tell me a bit about the collection you’ll be debuting at Shine?
I think this collection really represents me as a designer - it’s called Iper, which means “hyper” in Italian. It started with a bespoke yellow 1.5 carat diamond ring that I designed for a client, which then became the inspiration behind the title of the collection, because almost humorously, I named the diamond that I chose for the ring Yellow Hyper-Giant HR5171, after the brightest and largest yellow star in the universe. I used the galaxy as a reference point for the ring design, and it got me thinking about how I could create a pixelated effect to show all of the small stars in the galaxy. That was the initial inspiration for the collection, and then I also incorporated influences like the cubism and art deco movements, and the French artist Fernand Léger, who I love - particularly his use of primary colours, and how he uses straight and curvy lines to abstractly convey a story. If you break the rings in the collection apart, for example the Chiara Ring, you’ll find seventeen perfect individual pieces of tetris block.
What have you learned from the process of planning and creating this collection?
What I've learned is trial and error. Each piece in Iper contains many tiny blocks of gemstones or enamel. To achieve this, I would first create an arrangement of colour that I found pleasing, and that fit the overall theme of the collection. Fernand Léger, the artist who was one of the main influences behind the work, used colour to convey a story, and so I wanted to use colours, enamel and gemstones to convey my own story.
I created maybe hundreds of arrangements of colours, before I finally narrowed it down to three colours that I was really happy with, which were yellow gold and rose gold with an arrangement of yellow, and silver with an arrangement of black and grey. Once I’d decided on these arrangements, I had to ensure that the workshop followed the specifications exactly. The rings break down into pieces, so I had to point out each single block, even numbering them. If just one block was wrong, the entire ring then wouldn’t work.
With different ring sizes, I also had to have different numbers of blocks, and a brand new arrangement particularly for each size. So basically, the creation of every single piece, for every single size of ring, involved a lot of planning, craftsmanship and execution. These were probably the most interesting pieces that I’ve worked on, but at the same time, some of the most difficult because of how close the enamels and gemstones are, and the pieces have to be polished in a way that the enamel is flush and the gemstone is neat. So, they’re very challenging pieces to make - hence the high price!
How do your technical drawings work?
I start with hand drawing. I actually put the stone samples onto paper, and draw the enamel colours by hand, or I put them in a ring, basically trying different things out, and seeing what works and what doesn’t, and I take photos as reference. I effectively do it by hand first, before moving onto the computer for a faster arrangement. I create workshop worksheets on a computer because that's nice and clean, and easier for the workshop to understand. So, it’s a combination of by hand and computer.
How would you describe your design style?
So, I always start designing a collection with a story. For example, with the ring named after the Hyper-Giant HR5171 star, I started designing with a yellow diamond and gave the ring this humorous name, and from there I began exploring this idea of stars, the galaxy and the universe. I have another collection called Pixel, which is a comical reflection on the mobile game Snake, and how it mirrors modern life. The snake has to eat the next apple to grow but do this without crashing into itself, that's its main obstacle. So, I try to find the philosophical meaning in life, in little details, whether that’s in gaming or nature.
I start my jewellery making or designing story almost like a film script, trying to find references surrounding the storyline, and just basically start and have fun with it. Each of my collections are very different, but they also all have my signature embedded in them.
Has this collection pushed you to explore any new techniques or materials?
100%. I have discovered that I really like the combination of gemstone and enamel. I started my brand as a bespoke designer, so I worked with a lot of precious materials, gemstones and metal, and I hadn’t really explored colour before like I did in this collection with enamel. I found that using enamel, I can create any shades of colour that I want. Obviously, you can find different colours of gemstones, but not with the same precision - say for example if I want an exact shade of blue, with enamel, I can actually mix the colours myself to create a colour and keep it forever.
With gemstones, you can't achieve that, and I find that very fascinating, because for me, colour is so important. I love the fact that I can play with natural coloured gemstones whilst also creating my own Edward-style colour blue, that then enters the collection. There's a lot of trial and error involved in mixing, and I did most of the enamel sampling, mixing and colour matching colour myself, and I think that’s something that I’ll do in the long term. I love how I’ve pushed the boundaries.
What do you enjoy most about being a maker?
I think for me it’s the designing process, especially when you’ve confirmed the design but are finalising it by doing trials of different colours and very slight variations. You might have a hundred variations of the same design, but you’ll know when you find the right one. It’s a high moment for me when I finally reach my goal and know that the design is 100% the best it could be.
Do you have a favourite piece in this collection?
The Kiki Ring, which uses a lot of negative space, you can see through it. It seems very random or all over the place, but I actually did hundreds of trials to create it. It’s basically tetris blocks that have been combined into a real ring. I basically played a tetris game in my drawing, both on the computer and on paper. It took a very long time, but I finally reached my end goal, and then I had to fill the colours in. I’m really happy with the result, yellow is my favourite colour and there’s yellow citrine in there, sapphire, white topaz and white enamel.
Do you design with a particular customer in mind?
My clientele, particularly in regards to my collections, have a taste for fine jewellery and are maybe aged 30-40. They’re young professionals who are art lovers, interested in things that are perhaps architectural but that also have a story behind them. My bespoke clients are quite similar, I think.
What’s next for you - what are your creative and professional goals for the next two years?
I have an idea for a new collection in 2023 in my head. I really want to have a mixed collection that utilises things I've learned from creating Iper and all of my previous collections. I also want to just expand my brand and brand awareness. The bespoke area of my business in particular is doing really well and I offer something called the Reimagine service that I want to focus on.
Sustainability is a big part of my brand, so I want to invite my customers to bring in their old jewellery pieces so that we can re-imagine them together, using the same gemstone or the same metal, but adding in a new vision, so the sentimental value of the piece lives on.
I really want to push this Reimagine bespoke service for the next few years. I want to work with more retailers so that my work will reach more customers, and I want to expand into the European and Chinese markets. China is my hometown and I want to see my pieces being worn and being basically being sold in China, my home country.