This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)
If Indiana Jones was a woman and a gemologist his name would probably be Paloma Sanchez. In a recent interview with Nicely Made in China (NMiC), Paloma recounts some of her adventures around the world’s hot spots and how she creates her jewellery.
Paloma, why did you become a gemologist?
I had always been interested in gemology but to please my father I first acquired a law degree from Madrid University before studying at the Gemological Institute of America (G.I.A) in Los Angeles. I subsequently worked for watch companies in Asia, but I still was not using my skills as a gemologist. Then in 2009 I decided to follow my passion and opened my first shop in Sanlitun, in Beijing. I recall that at the G.I.A we were all dreaming of adventure, flying to remote places in search of precious stones. And today that’s my life!
How does a gemologist work?
I fly to anywhere and everywhere gemstones are mined. Some places can be very dangerous! This year alone, I traveled to Colombia, Arizona, France, Mexico, Morocco, Thailand, Ethiopia, Malaysia and Madagascar. I also buy gems in China: aquamarines from Xingjiang near the Pakistan border, tektite from Guilin and quartz and sapphires from Jiangsu province. Then I come back home to Beijing – I moved here in 2006 – to design my collections of necklaces, rings, earrings etc… Each piece is handmade by my 5 Chinese employees – all goldsmiths and silversmiths from Guangzhou where there’s a strong jewellery tradition.
Why do you need to go to so many countries?
Madagascar has almost all the precious and semi-precious gemstones that you can find on Earth but not quite everything: they have the best aquamarines, tourmalines, sapphires, garnets in all colors, rose quartz, jaspers, agates, fossils…but the most beautiful emeralds are still to be found in Colombia, the best turquoise comes from Arizona and the best lapis lazuli from Afghanistan. I’ve only recently begun to go to Ethiopia to buy opals where the market is not yet mature, but the stones are cheaper than in Australia, for instance, for the same quality.
How many collections do you make each year?
It depends! This year (2011) I made 2 collections with Colombian emeralds and one with Sleeping Beauty turquoise, antique hand painted British porcelain, pink sapphires and Brazilian rough lemon quartz. The next collection will be called « Africa in China ». I will use precious stones – opals, tourmalines, sapphires – that I brought back from Ethiopia and Madagascar, with China-inspired designs. For example, I will use antique Chinese jade with Ethiopian opals for a necklace. Each collection consists of more or less 50 pieces.
What metal do you like to use in your jewellery?
I use silver and gold. Now, I have also created a collection with other metals like silicium and chromium from Germany, and copper from Michigan.
Who are your clients?
In the past, most of my clients were expatriates, but now 80% of my clients are Chinese. My designs are unusual and modern at the same time, and the Chinese have become accustomed to that. They see the New York fashion shows and they read ELLE and VOGUE. Each piece I make is unique and my clients, who have good salaries, now want one-of-a-kind handmade pieces that they won’t see anywhere else. I have noticed that I now attract more and more artists, movie stars and art galleries owners.
I also work with local – Elysée Yang – and international fashion designers like La Perla, the luxury lingerie maker, lending them my jewels for their fashion shows.
What’s next for Paloma Sanchez?
I intend to open a second shop in Beijing very soon and maybe one in Shanghai too!
Paloma Sanchez Shop: Nali Patio.
A115, 81 North Sanlitun Lu, Beijing.