In the world of jewellery, crafting exquisite pieces that encapsulate elegance and individuality is an art form. We had the privilege to sit down with Jessica Cu, the visionary founder of The 5th C, to delve into her remarkable journey. In this interview, we explore her background, creative process, challenges, and unwavering commitment to quality and transparency in the industry.
Could You Share Your Background and Delve into Your Extensive Experience in the World of Jewellery Making?
I studied gemology at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in 1998. While I was studying, I was also working for Element Design, which was helmed by two Hong Kong jewellery designers. From them, I learned how to transform various ideas and concepts into beautiful finished products. After a couple of years there, I joined a wholesale jewellery manufacturer that specialized in designs for the US market, where I learned everything from quality control in every item that gets shipped to handling repairs and returns. This is also where I honed my skills around being stringent and exacting with diamond weights and quality because there was a very small percentage in variation allowed. If a US retailer orders 1,000 of a certain ring design, we had to make sure that the pieces were as close to identical as possible.
I went on to work for an Israeli diamond company where I looked at diamonds all day, every day. I learned what excellent cutting actually means and looks like. We spearheaded the introduction of hearts and arrows diamonds (the most optically precise round brilliant cut diamonds) in Asia. After working for a couple more Israeli diamond companies, I started getting requests from friends and family to make them their dream pieces, and so in 2012, I left the wholesale diamond business to concentrate on creating unique pieces for my growing clientele.
In Such a Dynamic Industry, how do You Stay Up-To-Date with the Latest Trends and Techniques in Jewellery Design and Craftsmanship?
By following and reading a mixture of industry publications and Instagram! As you mentioned, there is such a wide range of changing trends, and techniques are constantly evolving. I’m lucky that I really love what I do so spending time on social media and reading about the trade isn’t even like work to me!
How do You Strike a Balance Between Innovation and Meeting the Specific Preferences of Your Customers?
I usually discuss a design with my clients, and most of the time, they already have an idea in mind, and we work together on how to make it more unique. We continue discussing options until we finalise everything, whether it be a certain addition to the band, the basket, etc.
Among the Various Materials Available, Which Ones do You Particularly Enjoy Working with, and what Draws You to Them?
I like working with different gemstones and setting them in different colours of gold. For example, traditionally, green emeralds are set in white or yellow gold. We tried setting them with rose gold, and the outcome was gorgeous! There’s something very feminine about rose gold, and it gave the emerald’s strong green hue a softer vibe. I think being open to experimenting with new gemstones and combinations keeps things fresh and relevant.
Can You Recount a Challenging Jewellery Project You Worked on in the Past? How Did You Overcome the Difficulties You Encountered Throughout the Process?
I had a client who wanted to refashion an heirloom piece but wasn’t sure what she wanted. When she came to me, she didn’t have much knowledge about jewellery or much of an opinion on it, for that matter. I guided her through the discovery – of the various options available, the development – of what her preferred design aesthetic and style was, and design – combining and creating some options and decisions. She changed her mind constantly throughout the process, but we got there in the end. Clear and open communication is crucial to avoiding misunderstanding and ensuring everyone’s expectations are managed and met!
Ensuring the Quality and Precision of Your Work Is Crucial. What Measures Do You Undertake to Maintain the High Standard of Your Creations? Could You Elaborate on the Quality Control Protocols You Follow During Production?
Because I spent years working at a company where quality and precision were crucial, it’s pretty much been ingrained in me as a habit. I pick out all of the diamonds myself – I make sure every single tiny stone matches the colour of the main stone. Most companies rely on the factory to choose the diamonds and gemstones. I still do everything myself. I also choose the best stones out of many carats. If I am making a coloured stone ring, for example, I make sure all the shades of blue are the same and that the sapphires have fire (i.e. sparkle). I also measure each one to ensure that they are all as perfectly symmetrical as possible. A lot of jewellery production has moved to China, but every piece we do is still handmade here in Hong Kong. From beginning to end, I work closely with my goldsmith to make sure each piece is 100% securely set and durable.
When It Comes to Pricing Your Jewellery, what Factors do You Consider in Determining the Value of a Piece? How do You Approach this Aspect of Your Business?
There’s a lot of competition in a densely populated country such as Hong Kong so we keep our price points as low as possible. We understand that people will likely visit a number of shops and compare pricing versus quality so I usually preselect my top 4-5 stones, offer this to the client, and educate them about the 4 C’s. There are a lot of jewellers out there who will prey on a client’s ignorance, selling them a strong blue or deep-cut diamond for a low price without telling them why their price is lower. I want everyone who buys from me to be informed and proud of what they’ve purchased.
A lot of my clients have brought me diamonds bought elsewhere for resetting, and I can’t believe how many have been sold something without being given full knowledge of the stone’s profile. Recently, a client brought me a four-carat F VVS1, with strong blue fluorescence. Strong fluorescence in a large and high-colour diamond (D-F) makes it less attractive and impacts its value and price. My client wasn’t educated about this before she made the purchase and the price she paid did not reflect this. I think it’s a jeweller’s obligation to their customer to provide education and transparency about what they are buying. That’s certainly the way we do things at The 5th C.
Discovering The 5th C: Where Jewelry Becomes an Experience
Jessica Cu’s journey in the world of jewellery, as shared in this interview, is a testament to the blend of expertise, passion, and dedication that goes into crafting exquisite jewellery pieces. From her early inspirations to her meticulous selection of gemstones and commitment to transparency, Jessica embodies the quintessential jeweller who not only creates jewellery but also educates and empowers her clients.
In a bustling city like Hong Kong, where competition is fierce, The 5th C stands out as a beacon of quality, value, and trust. The commitment to offering carefully curated stones, along with an unwavering dedication to client education, sets The 5th C apart. To all those seeking not just a piece of jewellery but an unforgettable experience, we wholeheartedly recommend discovering The 5th C—a place where every piece is not just a gem but a story waiting to be told.
Featured image © The 5th C