The Royal Butterfly Spreads its Wings into the Smithsonian

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brooch frontWashington—It may still be winter, but Cindy Chao’s Black Label Masterpiece Royal Butterfly brooch has us thinking spring.

While walking through the Central District in Hong Kong, Chao spotted a stunning butterfly fluttering past the high-risers and high above the noisy traffic jams and claustrophobic crowds.

It was this moment of tranquil beauty among utter chaos that inspired her to create the Royal Butterfly brooch, which were inducted into the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals on March 5.

This occasion makes Chao, a celebrated contemporary jewelry artisan, the first Taiwanese designer to be inducted into the museum’s permanent collection.

brooch backThe Royal Butterfly brooch was created in 2009 and is composed of 2,328 gems, totaling a whopping 77 carats. More like a work of art than jewelry, it is set with fancy-colored and color-changing sapphires, rubies, diamonds, tsavorite and more.

It is also highly dimensional, varied on front and back and different from every angle. In addition, to bring out more brilliance in the rough diamonds on the butterfly’s wings, Chao inlaid a layer of diamonds underneath the rough diamond wings, inventing the layering setting technique.

While the brooch is composed of some of the rarest and most unparalleled stones and gems in the world, the Smithsonian is also applauding Chao’s breakthrough in artistry and jewelry craftsmanship with her skilled and unique usage of rough diamonds.



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