Jewelry designer Anna Hu is next to be welcomed into the Jing Daily community of individuals shaping China’s booming luxury industry. These profiles highlight industry leaders who contribute to the national and global fashion communities, from creatives and influencers to business executives and entrepreneurs.
Over the last 15 years, the cello-playing prodigy turned jeweler Anna Hu has established herself as a leading light in high jewelry design. Born in Taiwan and now living between New York, her business headquarters, and Monaco, the 45-year-old has seen her designs featured in art fairs and auctions globally — in 2019, she broke the world record for a Chinese contemporary jewelry artist in Hong Kong with the sale of her Dunhuang Pipa necklace for $5.78 million (47 million RMB).
Made in Paris ateliers, her pieces are worn by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Uma Thurman, as well as entrepreneurs like Wendy Yu and Pansy Ho. One of these works, a Yin Yang hand ornament designed in collaboration with American artist-photographer Cindy Sherman, was even acquired by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris for its permanent collection in June 2022.
A second-generation diamond dealer’s daughter, Hu initially imagined her life as a cellist, moving to the US to study until a debilitating shoulder injury left her dreams in tatters. Her father suggested a gemology course with the Gemological Institute of America which she took to immediately — not because she wanted to be a gem-trader herself but to channel her artistry as a designer. After working at Christie’s, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Harry Winston, she debuted her own collection in 2007 as the founder and designer of her own luxury boutique. Still, she teases friends that she is an artist trying to be a CEO.
In 2021, Hu began a creative partnership with Mrs. Alisa Moussaieff in London, one of the world’s most highly respected gem dealers, whose family business dates back 800 years. Their close bond has resulted in spectacular high-end pieces being showcased for the first time at art fairs in Europe this year. Hu’s collectors include Middle Eastern royalty, female Hong Kong billionaires, Chinese entrepreneurs, and even the Queen of Bhutan for whom she created earrings and a brooch for her royal wedding in 2011.
At the top of her craft, Anna Hu is now expanding her reach in China. Here, Jing Daily chats to the accomplished designer.
You only create about 20-30 pieces a year. Can you tell us about your creative process?
It is spontaneous, inspired by music, art history, and my Chinese heritage, which gives me a unique design identity. I have a scholarly approach but give the work a contemporary appeal. I never sketch, the pieces are too complicated. I compose the pieces with the gemstones like a painter, but painting with actual gemstones.
You unveil collections at art fairs like TEFAF and Masterpiece (with Mrs. Moussaieff) and during Paris haute couture week. Do you see a synergy between art collectors and people collecting your work? Is that key to your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy is very simple: I pick the organizations that I feel understand and best present my work, not on a commercial level but at an art level. Tefaf (The European Fine Art Foundation in Maastricht) is the best and I will join Tefaf’s New York fair in future. I have a mutual understanding with Mrs, Moussaieff that she shows at Masterpiece in London, and I exhibit at Tefaf, as we have a few pieces in our collaboration that we can share. I also show during haute couture at the Ritz in Paris.
There are, therefore, three channels: firstly, the art fairs and museums, then when the timing is right with auctions. Lastly, my private channel through my own jewelry salons, which are more tailored to commissioned pieces.
High jewelry is about building personal relationships with clients. Who are the typical Anna Hu customers in Greater China and internationally?
They are confident, independent women who know what they want and have a high level of education. There are many kinds of wealthy clients, and I am fortunate enough to be able to choose who to work with. The ones I click with best are highly intellectual and independent. A lot of jewelers make art pieces not to be worn but displayed and for a male collector that makes sense, but I think a woman’s body is a beautiful canvas. Therefore, 99 percent of my pieces are made to fit a woman comfortably.
Finally, tell us about your retail plans in Greater China?
My first trip to China was 15 years ago when I started my brand. I opened a store in the Bund area in 2013 but temporarily moved it back to Taipei [Hu’s flagship is in Taipei’s Mandarin Oriental] due to a change of operations strategy of the mall. I opened a boutique at the Ritz-Carlton in Beijing with a client and close friend.
However, I love Shanghai and a return is on my to-do list. We are open to possibilities but not exclusively in the Bund area as it matters more for the location to have the right chemistry with our brand and be convenient for clients. I also have a gallery next to MOMA in New York and am looking at opening a private showroom in Hong Kong by the end of the year. It’s all go!