Korean-born designer Joon Han fell accidentally in love with designing fine jewellery. However, her rise as a jeweler is no ordinary journey. Starting out with corporate gigs such as banker and university lecturer, Han’s passion for jewellery design never stopped her from pursuing her dream.
We chat to Han about her passion for jewellery, what it’s like to grow up in different countries and the qualities she looks for when searching for a stone to use in her designs.
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Prior to becoming a jewellery designer, you were a banker and a university lecturer. Given that you started out with a corporate background, what made you want to pursue jewellery design?
I graduated with a degree in Economics from Wellesley College in the United States, so I naturally went straight into the corporate world of banking. After teaching at a university in Korea and raising my three children, I delved into my more interesting and challenging artistic side, which led me through the fashion and art fields, and eventually to the creation of my fine jewellery line.
I developed my love of gemstones and jewellery as a young girl playing with my mother’s vast jewellery collection. I also have great memories of shopping for jewels with my mother wherever we travelled, so jewellery was in my blood.
I had started designing my own jewellery in my twenties in Korea when I couldn’t find the beautiful statement pieces I wanted. With my enduring love of gemstones and colours, and with the abundant variety of semi-precious gemstones newly available in the marketplace, I found a niche to be creative in designing vibrant, colourful, and elegant fine jewellery.
All your life, you’ve been surrounded by four different cultures. Among all the places that you grew up in, which city/country shaped your aesthetic?
I regard myself as an “international citizen,” as I feel that I am an amalgam of many different cultures, having grown up in Korea, Western Samoa, the Philippines, and the US. At my international school in Manila, there were over 50 nationalities represented, so I came to understand the diverse cultures of many countries. I was lucky enough to be exposed to multiculturalism from a young age, as this shaped my mind to be open and broad, and to integrate the favorable aspects of each culture. Because of this, my aesthetic likewise integrates elements of the natural ease and beauty of the tropics, the understated elegance of the Eastern cultures, and the more individualistic traits prized in the Western cultures, culminating in my effortlessly elegant and luxurious one-of- a-kind fine jewellery.
Your designs are eclectic, simple, colourful, yet traditional. How did the idea of fusing traditional designs and modern silhouettes happen?
Growing up, most of the jewellery was very classic and traditional, designed primarily with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and pearls. Even then, I was always drawn more to colored gemstones than to diamonds, as I felt that each coloured gemstone had its own unique character. I also loved baroque pearls for the same reason – each pearl’s uniqueness.
I find traditional designs are timeless and elegant, but I also wanted to create pieces that are unique and make a statement in a modern way, so this fusing of the old and the new came naturally.
I have always enjoyed being a trendsetter rather than a follower, so my jewellery has a timeless appeal, yet it is coveted for being “in vogue” with the times. Each piece is notably unique, so the wearer can express her authentic individuality, which is a desired hallmark of our contemporary lifestyles.
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You use a variety of gemstones from watermelon tourmaline to turquoise. What qualities do you look for when you’re sourcing these stones?
I have a strong passion for all gemstones. Growing up with a mother who valued outstanding quality when it came to gemstones trained me to think likewise. I hand select exceptional gemstones and pearls for their beautiful natural hues, outstanding brilliance, unusual cuts, and interesting shapes, as I feel that these form the important foundations of noteworthy jewellery.
I only source gemstones that call out to me with their unique character, and make these intriguing stones the centerpieces of my designs. I take it as a huge compliment when people tell me they can feel my passion for gemstones through my jewellery and its refreshing and interesting colour combinations.
Among all the stones you’ve used, which one do you connect with personally?
I can’t say that I only connect with one stone personally, as I love each gemstone for its unique nature! Every stone exudes its magic, its beauty, and its energy, and that’s why I use such an eclectic range of gemstones in my jewellery.
If I had to pick one, I am partial to the beautiful blue aquamarine, which represents happiness and gives off refreshing energy.
Art has always been such an intrinsic element in your designs. Why do you feel inspired by art?
Art is a powerful creative process singular to each artist, and it has the power to reach out and deeply touch us. It is created by the artist’s vision, inspirations, and emotions, and we are drawn to an art piece because it affects our senses and we feel the energy of the artist through the piece.
Art inspires me because in the same way, jewellery design is an imaginative process, and people intuitively respond to beautiful jewellery emotionally. I am most complimented when my jewellery evokes these feelings from deep within and people tell me that they feel my passion through my jewellery, just as we appreciate art that is alive.
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JeweLuxe Singapore 2018 will take place from 12 to 21 October 2018, at the TENT@Ngee Ann City.
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