Unveiling a Chinese Luxury Jadeite Brand: A Visit to Zhaoyi Cuiwu in Beijing

Tao Hsu and Andrew Lucas
September 2, 2014
“Dancing Bird with Jade Feathers” jadeite necklace
This “Dancing Bird with Jade Feathers” jadeite necklace was made by Zhaoyi Cuiwu. The necklace’s evocative name comes from an impressionistic resemblance to a bird rather than a literal representation. The pendant portion of the necklace suggests the slender neck of a bird, and the portion above the flower clip suggests its wings. The green jadeite cabochons symbolize glistening bird feathers. The piece epitomizes a key difference between Chinese and Western jewelry design, in that the Chinese tend to focus on the symbolic, rather than naturalistic, representation of natural subjects. The necklace won the Media Attention Award in the China Jewelry Design and Manufacturing Contest. Photo courtesy of Zhaoyi Xintiandi Co. Ltd.
Zhaoyi has been the leading fine jadeite jewelry brand since its debut in 2003. In 2012, it was honored by the American luxury lifestyle magazine The Robb Report as one of China’s top ten emerging luxury brands. In 2013, a GIA field gemology team visited Zhaoyi Cuiwu, one of the three production lines that operate under Zhaoyi Xintiandi Co. Ltd. This eye-opening experience allowed the authors and Western jewelry industry experts to re-envision the traditional Chinese gold-jade culture as an inexhaustible source of luxury innovations.

Zhaoyi Cuiwu jewelry

Play
Sales professionals describe high-end jadeite jewelry made by Zhaoyi Cuiwu.

Brand Profile

The brand name “Zhaoyi” originated from the ancient Chinese Palace of the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 9 AD). It was one of the high official titles assigned by the emperors to women who served in the palace. In Chinese, “Zhao” means “illuminating” or “being bright,” while “Yi” means “etiquette.” These concepts are also the core of the Chinese gold-jade culture.

Zhaoyi Xintiandi Jewelry Co., Ltd. was formed in Beijing in 2003. From day one, this company has established its image as the leader of Chinese high-end jewelry trends and the inheritor of traditional Chinese jewelry manufacturing craftsmanship. The company integrates jadeite rough purchasing, jewelry design, haute couture design, jewelry manufacturing, jewelry retailing, and brand promotion.

In 2004, Zhaoyi opened its first retail store in Beijing. In 2007, Zhaoyi opened its first flagship store in the Beijing Kunlun Hotel. In that same year, movie star Wenli Jiang walked the red carpet of the international film festival in Rome wearing a Zhaoyi suite consisting of a colorless transparent jadeite necklace and ring. For the first time, fine jadeite jewelry designed and made by Zhaoyi stood out on an international stage.

The store visited by the GIA team in the Grand Hyatt Beijing opened in September 2008. Well-known film stars attended the opening ceremony. In 2012, a new Zhaoyi Cuiwu store image was unveiled at the Shanghai Top Marques private luxury exhibition. International movie star Kar-ling Lau modeled top-quality jadeite jewelry at the show. Since the company’s formation, Zhaoyi has collaborated with many movie stars, and many of them became collectors of Zhaoyi’s fine jadeite jewelry.

Movie star Pace Wu wearing Zhaoyi’s imperial jadeite jewelry suite
Movie star Pace Wu wore Zhaoyi’s imperial jadeite jewelry suite. As a well-known fashion icon, Wu demonstrated to the public, especially the young generation, that green jadeite can be very fashionable. Photo courtesy Zhaoyi Xintiandi Co. Ltd.
Great leadership and industry expertise are always important to the development and prosperity of a business. Zhaoyi’s president and CEO, Ms. Yunhe Wang, has very sharp insights and a clear sense of her company's direction. She selected filigree inlay designer Master Yingyi Bai and Canadian-Chinese jewelry designer Grace Lee as the chief designers. This turned out to be one of the most successful moves in Zhaoyi’s history.

Chief filigree inlay designer Master Jingyi Bai, Yunhe Wang, and famous movie star Kai-ling Lau
Ms. Yunhe Wang, President and CEO of Zhaoyi Xintiandi Co. Ltd., treasures the industry experts she has recruited for Zhaoyi. From left to right: Chief filigree inlay designer Master Jingyi Bai, Yunhe Wang, and famous movie star Kai-ling Lau. Photo courtesy Zhaoyi Xintiandi Co. Ltd.
Currently, Zhaoyi has a total of 13 boutique stores in nine cities. While not a large number, every store is like an art gallery. The Beijing store even houses a private filigree museum. Aside from major cities in mainland China, Zhaoyi also has locations in Hong Kong and is planning to open franchised shops in Paris, New York, and other metropolitan areas all over the world. Their goal is to bring the Chinese gold-jade culture to the international market.

Creative Jewelry Design

Targeting the high-end jadeite jewelry market in China, Zhaoyi creates jadeite masterpieces with particular appeal to art collectors. In order to successfully inherit and carry on the gold-jade culture and its thousands of years of history, designers apply groundbreaking Western design concepts to jadeite jewelry. These creative designs attract the attention of the younger generation and the Western world.

Jadeite cabochons mounted in karat gold with diamond accent stones
View Gallery
Creative Designs
Colorless transparent jadeite jewelry is one of Zhaoyi’s special products. Previously, colorless jadeite was not favored by jadeite professionals in China. However, it can actually display outstanding transparency and extremely fine texture. Industry experts in Zhaoyi sensed the potential of this material and created the classic transparent colorless jadeite cabochon. Now, transparent jadeite cabochons more or less symbolize the Zhaoyi Cuiwu brand. This is significant, especially because of the shortage of high-quality green jadeite rough. At the same time, for balance, designers bravely use diamonds and colored stones as accents for these cabochons. This has never before been popular in China’s history.

Colorless Guanyin jadeite pendant
View Gallery
The Beauty of Colorless Transparent Jadeite
Besides colorless transparent jadeite and the traditionally popular imperial jadeite, jadeite in other colors is also beautifully designed and manufactured by Zhaoyi. 

Lavender jadeite
View Gallery
More than Green

Company Treasures

When a great designer works with extremely rare top-quality material, masterpieces are expected. Zhaoyi claims both elements as company treasures.

Grace Lee, the chief designer of Zhaoyi Jade House
Grace Lee, the chief designer of Zhaoyi Cuiwu, was once a broadcaster. Her design innovations resulted in jewelry pieces featuring colorless transparent jadeite. Photo courtesy Zhaoyi Xintiandi Co. Ltd.
Grace Lee, a Canadian originally from Hong Kong, is the chief designer of Zhaoyi Cuiwu. Once a broadcaster at ATV World in Hong Kong, Grace stepped into the gem and jewelry industry with a jewelry design degree from Hong Kong Baptist University and a GIA Graduate Gemologist diploma. Since she became a jewelry designer, her works have become very popular in auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s. As Zhaoyi’s chief designer, two of her product lines, “Jade for You” and “Jade That She Wants,” are very well favored by clients. Both have been extended into high-end custom jewelry lines. 

“Jade that She Wants”  – Zhaoyi high-end custom jewelry line
“Jade that She Wants” is one of two Zhaoyi high-end custom jewelry lines designed by Grace Lee. These jewelry pieces feature large, top-quality, colorless transparent jadeite cabochons and complementary colored stones. Photo courtesy Zhaoyi Xintiandi Co. Ltd.
One of Grace’s jadeite masterpieces is also the company’s symbol. It’s called “The star of Zhaoyi.” It was released in 2012 and won the Robb Report's Best Chinese Selected Jewelry Award. The center stone of the The star of Zhaoyi is a top-quality lavender jadeite cabochon that weighs 9,499 carats. The cabochon is mounted in precious metal with numerous diamonds and colored stones. The piece resembles a blossoming peony, which is considered the national flower of China. Ten matched rings were made to surround the larger piece. Each ring has a top-quality colorless transparent jadeite as the center stone. All ten rings have the same design as the star of Zhaoyi.  

Top-quality lavender jadeite
The star of Zhaoyi is the company’s symbol. This piece features a center stone that weighs 9499 carats. Top-quality lavender jadeite of this size is extremely rare. Ten matching rings were also made. The suite looks like a blossoming peony surrounded by ten small flowers. Photo courtesy Zhaoyi Xintiandi Co. Ltd.

Contribution to the Jade Industry

In addition to promoting and managing the brand, Zhaoyi also played an important role in the formation of the National Jadeite Grading Standard. Because Zhaoyi has access to a huge amount of jadeite of different qualities, it became the sponsor of the research into the grading system. Zhaoyi provided standard samples, and some experts from the company even participated in the research. In December, 2012, the Chinese Standardization Administration officially approved the “transparent jadeite (colorless) classification” standard. This standard was in practice at the end of 2013.

You Might Also Like

Find a Retailer
learn more
Shop the Campus Store
Learn More
Quality Assurance Benchmarks
Learn More
Gems & Gemology
G&G Fall 2017 Edition
Learn more