On the road: Understanding Jewellery visits Shenzhen

Understanding Jewellery was honoured to have recently visited Shenzhen, China, as guests of Peking University Resource College GIA. From the moment of their arrival and throughout the duration of the trip their hosts made David and Daniela feel very much at home and they were looked after extremely well.

Understanding Jewellery at Hong Kong airport, with Scott Tang and Kelly Zhang our PURC GIA hosts

In a packed 3-day itinerary David and Daniela gave lectures in Art Deco jewels and hosted Q&A sessions to brand new audiences, held in a number of Shenzhen’s stunningly and strikingly modern buildings. The Chinese language version of their seminal reference work, Understanding Jewellery, was published in early 2023 and the occasion of the visit was the perfect opportunity for jewellery enthusiasts to have their personal copies signed and dedicated by David and Daniela; this amounted to several hundred copies in total.

Attendees at David and Daniela's lecture on Art Deco jewels

David and Daniela’s visit was prompted not only by the recent publication of Understanding Jewellery, but also by the wide and growing passion for vintage and period jewellery evidenced throughout mainland China. The thirst for knowledge in the history of jewellery was apparent in all the gatherings and it was clear that Understanding Jewellery is helping to bring about an awareness as to why such jewellery is desirable, unique and collectable.

David and Daniela in conversation with three local jewellery designers

Shenzhen is a remarkable city, and ranks fourth in size in China after Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, and it’s growing rapidly. A key moment in Shenzhen’s modern history was its designation in 1980 as China’s first  Special Economic Zone, this paved the way for foreign investment, along with enhanced business and planning autonomy. It’s also a young city, with a population in excess of 17.5m only 5.36% of its residents are over 60 years of age. Shenzhen has witnessed many dramatic, monumental and distinctive building projects following the granting of its special status, designed by Chinese and international architects and covering sporting and cultural venues, commercial office and retail spaces and residential housing.

Daniela, David and guest at De Jewel House

This pervading sense of the next generation and the desire to look forward is expressed in the Shenzhen Jewelry Museum, which opened in 2019, as the first public museum in China dedicated exclusively to jewellery. David and Daniela were treated to a special tour by the Museum’s Director. To be in the Museum is to experience an immersive, brightly illuminated and thoroughly imaginative digital environment, which pays no adherence to traditional formalities of scale. Just one example is the Museum’s depiction of the creation of crystals – it’s told through vividly coloured projections on screens and tunnels, giving the sense of the secret and enigmatic way in which gemstones are formed deep within the earth’s crust.

We were thrilled to see Understanding Jewellery stocked in the Shenzhen Jewelry Museum bookshop

Shenzhen is located some 30 or so miles from Hong Kong – another string to its strategic bow – and it was the next stop for Understanding Jewellery. Here David and Daniela were the guests of the auction house Phillips and at their new premises in Kowloon where they gave a lecture on historic jewels to a packed room.

David presents a local artist with a copy of Understanding Jewellery at De Jewel House

David and Daniela were highly delighted by the enthusiastic and positive reception they received in Shenzhen, and were encouraged by the depth of interest in what amounts to a wholly new jewellery discipline for the region. Now equipped with a Chinese version of Understanding Jewellery which has received a lot of attention, they look forward to future visits as the market for antique and period jewels in this area continues to develop and expand.