Fashion / Style

Jeweler to the Stars Anabela Chan Turns Recycled Cans Into Fabulous Baubles — Why Beyonce and Taylor Swift Can’t Get Enough

When Ethically-Sourced Gems Make a Beautiful Statement

BY // 03.03.20

Anabela Chan is not a household name, but stylists to the stars know who she is. They regularly go to the London-based jeweler for her impressive creations made from ethically-sourced diamonds and other gemstones. Taylor Swift wore a pair of Chan’s custom designed heart-shaped earrings in the video for “You Need to Calm Down,” and top-tier celebrities like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway and Brie Larson have worn Chan’s designs to major events.

Remarkably, she has done all of this through good word-of-mouth and virtually no paid advertising.

An architect by training who worked for famed architect Richard Rogers, Chan became interested in fashion and designed prints for Alexander McQueen and AllSaints before deciding to create jewelry. She received a Master’s in Jewelry Design from London’s Royal College of Art and opened her first stand-alone boutique in 2014.

Shaken by the working conditions she observed during a visit to a diamond mine in Sri Lanka during her honeymoon, she turned to diamond-growing laboratories in California and naturally mined gemstones for her materials. She recently introduced Blooms, a capsule collection of floral earrings and brooches created from recycled aluminum drink cans, 18-karat gold, sterling silver and lab-grown gemstones.

In advance of a trunk show at Elizabeth Anthony this Thursday, March 5 and Friday, March 6, Chan talked to PaperCity about her designs, why sustainability is so important, and about her recent jump across the pond, where she launched a concept store at The Conservatory at Hudson Yards during New York Fashion Week, and then traveled to Los Angeles for the Elton John AIDS Foundation party and other Oscar events.

PC: What was you Oscar experience like and what was the highlight?

AC: L.A. was like a dream. To combat jet lag, the first thing I did was go on an early morning hike to the summit of Mount Hollywood. My guide Elizabeth was amazing. She is an aspiring actress and the body-double for Margot Robbie!

As an independent brand purely discovered through word of mouth with zero advertising, it always blows my mind to see incredible actresses and artists wearing my jewelry. My team and I are always in awe with gratitude in equal measures.

It was my first time attending an Oscar event and to have Sharon Stone auctioning my creations at the live auction was like a dream. I was so nervous and we were blown away and so proud to have raised $72,000 for the Elton John Aids Foundation in support of the incredible work they do.

PC: Why do you think your jewelry collection is so popular with the stars?

AC: I create magical, fun and fabulous jewels that tell stories. My pieces combine the timeless craftsmanship of high jewelry with a modern wearability; a joyful playfulness that exudes happiness.

PC: What is it that you most love about designing jewelry? 

AC: Jewelry is empowering. It brings joy, inspires emotions and elevates the spirit like no other. I love it’s longevity to transcend generations. Jewelry is timeless. It does not decay or go away. It is a chance to hold onto the past and at the same time reach out to the future, and I find that endearingly romantic.

PC: What is it that makes your designs so distinctive?

AC: I love color and textures and my jewelry captures a fragment of the magic of nature in a wearable art object that can be held in the palm of your hand. I create dramatic, playful and joyful jewels using laboratory-grown and created gemstones without the humanitarian, environmental issues and untraceable provenance associated with mining.

I find a potent synergy in the juxtaposition of precious and non-precious, natural and manmade materials. It is luxury with a touch of humbleness.

Beyonce_Anabela Chan_Diamond Cascade Earrings_Tyler Perry Studios Grand Opening_Oct_Atlanta_Georgia.6
Beyoncé wore Anabala Chan Diamond Cascade earrings to the opening of Tyler Perry Studios. (Photo courtesy of Anabela Chan)

PC: How do you think training as an architect has influenced your jewelry design?

AC: I think my architectural training has influenced my attention to detail with an obsession to perfection. I think the sensibility of scale, proportion, geometry, materiality and story-telling are all very similar traits shared between architects and jewelers. Growing up I was fortunate to be exposed to many beautiful things.

It allowed me to develop a critical eye for beauty and detail.  Visual imagery is very important in my work as a medium for story-telling, as I find the sensuality of what you see very powerful and moving.

PC: How has your love of nature influenced your career as a jewelry designer?

AC: Nature is my biggest source of inspiration as I think it is where the most beautiful colors, geometries, textures, proportions and forms are found. I am obsessed with exotic birds and butterflies in particular. Their mesmerizing colors, their variety, their freedom. There is something almost magical about their flight that seems to symbolize the very idea of imagination.

I have also always been fascinated by flowers in all their glory — from the spring buds to full blossoms to their decaying forms. I have loved painting flowers since I was a little girl and I love that not one is ever the same.  When you draw from direct observations you notice all the tiny little details that make each flower unique.

PC: You have been a champion for sustainable laboratory-grown diamonds and other gemstones. Why is that important to you?

AC: Almost seven years ago I visited a mine in Sri Lanka during my honeymoon and final year studies at the Royal College of Art in London. It was a life changing experience for me —  seeing is believing. I was shocked and saddened to see the working conditions of the mine, the risks and the inequality involved in the excavation of such precious things. I did not see joy nor romance, and as a young designer that experience was heartbreaking.

It was at that moment I decided to explore alternative materials and began my research into championing laboratory-grown, synthesized and simulated gemstones paired with intrinsic designs and artisanal craftsmanship in our collections.

Anabela Chan Rose Bloom earrings and necklace. (Photo courtesy of Anabela Chan)

PC: You recently launched a collection made from recycled aluminum. How did you come up with the idea and what makes it so unique?

AC: Blooms is the first of its kind fine jewelry collection featuring refined aluminum from recycled soda cans as the base metal, paired with scintillating laboratory-grown and created gemstones in vivid hues to create a dramatic, unusual and sculptural garden of blossoming blooms.

It is a project two-and-a-half years in the making.  Through a process of trial and error, we melt and refine waste aluminum drink cans into molten bars of ingots, that are then casted into miniature sculptures through the traditional artisanal method of lost wax casting.  A tale of ‘Trash to Treasures,’ Blooms is my most exciting and innovative collection yet.

PC: How does sustainability carry over into your everyday life?

AC: I think awareness is so important — knowing how things are made, where they come from and how they end up.

As a mother of two, I believe every little step makes a difference. I try my best to be conscious and considerate with food and products, buying less but better from groceries to shoes to toys. We separate waste, avoid disposable plastics and recycle at home. And we upcycle as much as possible. My 1-year-old son will be wearing my daughter’s pink pyjamas for the foreseeable future until he knows better!

I am fortunate to have travelled to some of the most beautiful and magical places on earth. I like to show my children the wonders of our natural world. You can’t tell people what to do, but you can inspire them with the beautiful nature we are blessed with today and together we can strive to protect it.

Part of the Special Series:

PaperCity - On The Runway Fall 2020
The Residences at The Allen
Hotel-Inspired Living

Curated Collection