Bejeweled

5 Asian Jewelry Makers Who Are Setting the Standard for Innovative Design

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When it comes to jewelry, Asia has long been known for its rich mineral resources and fine craftsmanship. In terms of design, for much of the past century, the region’s makers focused largely on traditional forms and domestic markets, since Asian jewelry wasn’t in demand on the global stage. Today, however, one can argue that some of the most creative, innovative and interesting jewels in the world are produced by artists and designers in Asia, not to mention Asian makers living abroad. Scrolling through 1stDibs opens up a world of contemporary Asian jewels that didn’t exist a few decades ago. Whether these designers are new to the scene or carrying on family businesses, they have managed to combine their Eastern perspectives with Western art history and cultural symbolism, creating jewels that have worldwide appeal. 

Below, meet five Asian artists and designers who are making jewelry that embodies this new global outlook.


Emi Stames
Zahira Fine Jewellery | Bangkok

Black and white portrait of Emi Stames next to a bejeweled cocktail ring of her design

What attracted you to jewelry?

My dad was a jewelry and gems dealer. My sister [Zahira Fine Jewellery cofounder Nina] and I grew up around beautiful jewelry and colored gems, so the fascination with jewelry was instilled very early on. 

How do you define your aesthetic?

Feminine, modern and Art Deco with our own twist, using vibrant colors. 

Where do you get your inspiration?

Our pieces are all inspired by the beautiful one-of-a-kind gemstones we find. We find unique gemstones first, and the creation process goes from there. We particularly love finding unique gemstones that have a story, and we let that take the lead. 

Pink Opal, Diamond, Emerald, Sapphire, Topaz and Citrine Starburst Earrings
Pink Opal, Diamond, Emerald, Sapphire, Topaz and Citrine Starburst Earrings, 2017. Above, from left: EMERALD CABOCHON AND COLORED SAPPHIRE HALO COCKTAIL RING, 2017; portrait of Emi Stames (photo courtesy of Emi Stames). Top, clockwise from left: Three-stone cocktail ring, 2018–19; Akoya pearl necklace, 2018; Burmese Star Ruby Dome Ring, 2019; black and white diamond chevron cuff, 2017; Pink Tourmaline, Ethiopian Opal and Diamond Circular Stud Earrings, 2021

What are your favorite materials?

We always work with gold and precious and semiprecious gems. 

How important is cultural heritage in your work?

Coming from a multicultural background, Thai-American, we understand the culture in Asia and the West and what customers are attracted to in each territory. Our designs show a mix of influences. This has been really important for us because we are able to connect to our international clients, especially when creating commissioned pieces. 

Moldavite Cocktail Ring with Diamonds in 18 Karat Gold
Moldavite, Diamond and 18-karat Gold Cocktail Ring, 2017

What is your favorite piece right now?

This 10.63-carat vivid green moldavite ring is a rare item. Moldavites are found in Germany and formed by a meteorite that made an impact fifteen million years ago. This one-of-a-kind stone is designed with over two carats of diamonds in a modern Art Deco design.


Vihari Sheth Poddar
Vihari Jewels | Hong Kong

What attracted you to jewelry?

As a fourth-generation jeweler, I spent weekends in my father and grandfather’s office looking at stones and learning about the trade, so I fell in love with it early on. There’s an undeniable beauty with diamonds and gemstones. Each has its own unique character and story. I love uncovering a stone’s history.

Gubelin Certified 22.54 Carat Colombian Emerald and Green Garnet Earrings
Colombian Emerald and Green Garnet Earrings, 2019. Above, from left: portrait of Vihari Sheth Poddar (photo courtesy of Vihari Sheth Poddar); Fancy Pink Purple Diamond CLOVER Ring, 2021

How do you define your aesthetic?

When it comes to investment jewelry, I have a contemporary classic aesthetic. I’m lucky to be able to work with some of the most outstanding stones in the world. I like to let the diamond or gemstone speak for itself. I design to highlight its beauty and never compromise on quality.

Where do you get inspiration? 

I draw inspiration from my experiences. When I lived in Italy, working with design houses like Buccellati, I got to witness incredible historic architecture that translated to ornate, complex designs with multiple layers. Recently, I designed a Wings and Iridescent Dragonfly collection that was inspired by my desire to take flight during COVID. I wanted something whimsical to transport me and my customers emotionally. 

GRS Certified 22.2 Carat Burmese Pigeons Blood Ruby Earrings in 18K Gold
Burmese Pigeons Blood Ruby Earrings in 18K Gold, 2020

What are your favorite materials?

I adore working with Burmese pigeon’s blood rubies, no heat. I find they possess a vibrancy that no other stone in the world can emulate. They’re full of passion and fire. My grandmother is from Burma and moved to Mumbai during the Cultural Revolution. This is my way of paying homage to her and to my family’s roots. 

How important is cultural heritage to your work?

Extremely important. Each stone has a unique story and a unique set of circumstances in its creation. In learning about the stone’s story, I can understand and see value in it and impose that same level of care in my design for the piece. A majority of collectors today want to know about the stone’s background so that they, too, can appreciate the rare gift from nature.  

GIA Certified 3.97 Carat Fancy Intense Blue and Pink Diamond Ring in 18K Gold
Fancy Intense Blue and Pink Diamond Ring in 18K Gold, 2020

What is your favorite piece right now?

The 3.97-carat fancy intense blue diamond ring flanked by two Argyle pink diamonds. It has a special symbolic meaning for me, as I have one son and two daughters. It’s a beautiful piece of heirloom jewelry. And the diamonds have incredible color saturation and a beautiful hue to them.


Vaibhav Dhadda
Vaibhav Dhadda Jewellery | Jaipur, India

Black and white portrait of Vaibhav Dhadda with a diamond cocktail bracelet of his design

What attracted you to jewelry?

As a second-generation jeweler, I was fascinated right from my childhood by the world of jewels and the power they possess. After completing my master’s in international business in France, I had the opportunity to work for Christian Dior. I was struck by the beauty of the Dior VIII Grand Bal watch collection. Its precise channel setting of exquisite colored gemstones inspired me to come back to Jaipur to create my own jewelry line.

18k Gold Ethiopian White Opal Multicolour Rainbow Baguette Circular Diamond Ring
Ethiopian White Opal and Rainbow Baguette Diamond Ring, 2021. Above, from left: 18-Karat Gold and Channel-Set Baguette Rainbow Diamond Cocktail Bracelet, 2020; portrait of Vaibhav Dhadda (photo courtesy of Vaibhav Dhadda)

How do you define your aesthetic?

Our design motifs have a contemporary take on Art Deco. I have always believed that true luxury is not only extraordinary but simple and fun. Our designs are elegant and use a lot of colors — either through a rainbow of hues, a dégradé [gradients] of a particular color or combinations of unusual colors. Each gemstone is caliber cut into various sizes of tapered baguettes, depending on the design, enhancing the fire in each gemstone and achieving perfect color gradation.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Art, culture and color all come together to inspire our jewelry pieces, where hues of colored gemstones dictate the movement of the eye.

What are your favorite materials?

I always like to use traditional materials associated with fine jewelry: eighteen-karat gold, fine quality diamonds and gemstones. However, I don’t limit my choice of gemstones to emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Lustrous semiprecious gemstones, like amethysts, multicolor tourmalines, aquamarines, garnets and more, are unique. Omnipresent in all the pieces are diamonds, which add sparkle and sophistication to the colored stones. 

How important is cultural heritage in your work?

I was brought up in the city of gemstones, so Jaipur is a major influence in my jewelry. Jaipur has a rich heritage of renowned gemstone cutters. We preserve this heritage by using traditional gemstone-cutting techniques in our contemporary creations. Every piece is cut and set by hand. Channel setting tapered baguettes is a feat of engineering and art.

Detachable 18 Karat Gold Citrine Topaz Moonstone Blue Sapphire Diamond Earrings
Detachable 18-Karat Gold, Citrine, Topaz, Moonstone, Blue Sapphire and Diamond Earrings, 2021

What is one of your favorite pieces right now?

That would be our Twilight earrings — modern impressionist earrings that evoke the colors, energy and light at sunset. They are illustrated with a vibrant variety of beautiful gemstones, hand selected and arranged with multidimensional angles to catch and refract light. The set sun is depicted by the vibrant citrine cabochon sitting at the center, with citrine and blue topaz tapered baguettes depicting the lit sky. The onset of dawn is depicted by the London blue topaz baguette, along with diamonds (stars) on the dangle. The moonstone is surrounded by the starry night of blue sapphires and diamonds. These earrings can also be detached and worn as studs.


Joon Han
Joon Han | Korean native and New York City resident

Black and white portrait of Joon Han next to a cocktail ring of her own design

What attracted you to jewelry design?

I developed my love of gemstones and jewelry as a young girl playing with my mother’s vast jewelry collection. I treasured one-of-a-kind statement pieces, because I felt that they were an expression of a woman’s authentic self. I especially loved creative pieces that were colorful, stylish and elegant, so this naturally became my niche in jewelry design.

Round White Seed Pearls and Blue Sapphire Beads Seven Strand Necklace
Round White Seed Pearl and Blue-Sapphire-Bead Seven-Strand Necklace, 2018–19. Above, from left: portrait of Joon Han (photo courtesy of Joon Han); Rose-Cut Bicolor Tourmaline and Diamond Cocktail Ring, 2018–19

How do you define your aesthetic?

I have always been drawn to colored gemstones. I feel each colored gem has its own unique beauty and character. I especially love the wide spectrum of semiprecious stones, as it allows for broad creativity in combining a multitude of stones into exquisite pieces. I also love baroque pearls for their singular beauty. Because I appreciate the artistry of classic pieces, I came to create jewelry that is timeless and elegant yet makes a modern statement.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I am inspired by my worldwide travels and adventures, by art and its imaginative forces and by the beauty of the imperfections in nature that reveal the history of creation.

What are your favorite materials?

I’m passionate about all gemstones. I hand select exceptional gemstones and pearls for their beautiful natural hues, outstanding brilliance, unusual cuts and interesting shapes, as I feel that these form the foundations of noteworthy jewelry. 

How important is cultural heritage in your work?

Having grown up in several different cultures in both the East and the West, I understood multiculturalism at a young age and came to regard myself as an “international citizen.” Growing up in varied cultures shaped my mind to value the unique aspects of each one. Thus, in my jewelry design, I like to integrate the understated elegance of Eastern cultures with the more individualistic traits prized in Western cultures, culminating in luxurious and elegant one-of-a-kind pieces.

18 Karat Yellow Gold Keshi Pearl Boulder Opal Spinel Drop Dangle Earrings
Keshi Pearl, Boulder Opal and Spinel Drop Dangle Earrings, 2019–20

What is one of your favorite pieces right now?

Right now, a pair of keshi pearl, boulder opal and spinel earrings. I love the combination of these natural gemstones as much as I enjoy the distinctiveness of each pearl and opal. The artistic expression and beauty of these rare gems make these a truly one-of-a-kind treasure.


Yuta Ishihara
Shihara | Tokyo

What attracted you to jewelry?

I think of jewelry as a vessel for human emotions. Jewelry is something that has existed throughout human history and continues to have an intimate relationship with our lives. It can symbolize milestones and promises, serve as good luck charms, or even just bring joy to the wearer. 

How do you define your aesthetic?

Jewelry could be viewed as something that people wear as ornament or decoration. However, my designs, which often have multiple options for wearing, are meant to bring out and highlight the beauty of the wearer’s personality. With minimal decorative elements, these unconventional yet functional structures seamlessly connect to a person’s body and enhance beauty. 

18 Karat Yellow Gold Diamond Square Pair of Earrings
PAIR OF Diamond Square Earrings, 2018

Where do you get your inspiration?

I’m often inspired by ancient hardware and tools. When I was in school, I noticed one thing that hadn’t changed historically in jewelry design, which was the usage of parts for the purpose of closures, fastening and linking. For Shihara, that was what instigated me to design pieces with all the hardware and closures incorporated into the design of the pieces. I like to come up with designs reimagining the functionality and homing in on how functionality can be incorporated in the overall design.

18 Karat Yellow Gold 0.2 Carat Diamond Necklace
18-Karat Yellow Gold and 0.2-Carat Diamond Necklace, 2018

What are your favorite materials?

My favorite material is yellow gold, and I especially like using eighteen-karat gold. This is the maximum density that will allow me to make my pieces as fine and delicate as they are. The material needs to be strong enough to maintain its shape but also be delicate enough to create the fine lines that I want. I see a lot of potential for gold in the way it is processed and the way it can be used. For example, mixing gold with other metals can make the precious material stronger.

How important is cultural heritage in your work?

In the history of Japan, it is said that humans started wearing accessories as ornaments in the Paleolithic period, more than twenty thousand years ago. Around the area where I grew up, in Yamanashi, there are many ruins from the Jomon period (about thirteen thousand to twenty-three hundred years ago), and just walking around, I used to find earthenware artifacts and arrowheads made of obsidian from that period. I felt compelled to preserve the artistic, cultural heritage of these objects that were made so long ago. That’s one of the main reasons I became interested in creating jewelry. 

18 Karat Yellow Gold Natural Octahedron Rough Diamond Un-Signet Ring
18-Karat Yellow Gold and Octahedron rough Diamond Un-Signet Ring, 2021

What is your favorite piece right now?

The Un-Signet rough diamond rings. I use uncut rough diamonds in their naturally formed octahedron shape.  When I saw these diamonds for the first time, I was fascinated by the beauty in its natural form. I wanted to find a way to show all eight points and twelve sides of these diamonds. I developed two rings based on my classic signet-style ring: one with a cage setting and one with a girdle setting. Every diamond is unique, so every piece is one-of-a-kind and made to fit the diamond.

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