Designer Spotlight: An Interview with Jewelry Designer Christian Tse

Have you SEEN the fancy color diamond pieces by Christian Tse in publications like Town and Country, Martha Stewart Weddings and Engagement 101? I thought you should get a glimpse of what his studio is doing–this “mad genius” designer is closely watched by stylists and celebrities for his innovative color combinations and exquisite workmanship.

Christian Tse 18kt Yellow Gold 10.00 Ct. Natural Fancy Yellow Diamond Engagement Ring with Fancy Yellow Accent Pave, Price upon Request

Christian Tse Background

Christian is a third generation jeweler, which helps to explain his design aesthetic and his studio’s skill: there is a confidence of composition in his designs. He launched the Christian Tse line in 1996 with his platinum and gold mesh jewelry, with collections that were influenced by his family’s business of designing 24 karat gold jewelry for Chinese weddings. I first saw his platinum and gold jewelry at fine independent jewelry stores in the late 1990’s and was impressed with how well-made the jewelry was, and how great it felt to wear it. NO ONE else in the industry was doing anything remotely like this. He went on to win a couple of Couture Awards for Best Design in Platinum, in 2000 and 2002.

Christian Tse 18kt White Gold Drop Earrings with 18.42 cts TW of Amethyst and 1.96 cts TW Pave Diamonds, $13,900 Retail

Christian Tse Jewelry Designs

After his success with his precious metal designs, Christian turned his eye towards gemstones and fancy color diamonds. He creates some truly memorable rings, earrings, and necklaces using gemstones combined with finely-wrought micro pave diamonds. Each piece is made by hand in their Pasadena loft studio, allowing ultimate control and perfect execution of his creations. Every detail, down the exact alloy of metal to match or contrast with each gemstone is carefully considered. He and his wife Victoria have been described as the “yin and yang” of their business, with a wonderful balance of hard work and honest communication with their staff and clients, but truly passionate about jewelry and their craft.

Christian Tse Geometric Drop Earrings in 18kt White Gold with Fancy Vivid Yellow-Orange Diamonds totaling 3.94 cts and 3.57 cts Pave Diamonds, Price upon Request

Christian Tse Timepieces

Christian’s innovative use of color is already apparent with his diamond and gemstone jewelry, but his true genius is revealed in his recently-launched watch designs, the aptly named “Prismatic Timepieces”. These watches feature amazing gemstones paired with bands made of stingray and other exotic textures, in arresting color combinations and patterns. But here’s the thing: the time is actually not apparent when looking at them–you must hit a hidden stem that then displays the time in diamonds that light up for a few seconds. Since some people have abandoned watches all together in the age of cell phones and devices that tell time down to the atomic second, this approach frames watches as gorgeous jewelry that you change with your outfit. It pushes the concept of time.

Christian Tse Desert Rose Watch on Strap

Christian Tse Interview Three words: Fancy Color Diamonds! How did you come to focus on designing fancy color diamonds? I read the recent JCK article where you serendipitously connected with a crazy-rare 4.5ct fancy vivid blue diamond. How do you approach these projects? Do you usually acquire the colored diamond first, then take your time formulating the design around it? Or do you have a certain color combination and design in mind, then go source the center diamond?
Christian Tse: I have always had a fascination for fancy color diamonds, though in my early years of business I could not afford to purchase fancy color diamonds. My very first fancy color diamond was a natural black diamond.
I approach each diamond as an individual project. Each diamond has its unique color and shape. The center diamond is the primary influence on the color combination for the design. I usually carry the diamond around and constantly look at it in different lights, i.e. day light, incandescent light, florescent light, twilight and so on to truly feel and experience the color. Once I’ve spent time with the diamond I come up with the design. We also alloy our gold colors to match and enhance the fancy color diamond.

Christian Tse Natural Fancy Green Diamond Ring, Price upon Request

What is your favorite color combination in all of your designs? Do you have an all-time favorite?
My favorite color for a diamond is a Natural Vivid Orange. Blue and pink diamonds go hand in hand. It also makes for a fantastic color combination.

So you make all of your jewelry in your studio/atelier in Pasadena? It’s becoming quite unusual to actually craft jewelry in the US, let alone under one roof. Do you feel this has an impact on the design process, quality and finishing of your work?
Manufacturing in the USA has always been my top priority as the trend is to move work over to other countries. I make a conscious effort in planning for long-term growth with our clients in acquiring advanced technical equipment for our facility. I have much better control over quality and design when I can be a part of every stage of crafting the pieces.

Christian Tse 18kt White Gold Asian-motif Square Bracelet with 10.51 ct TW Pave Diamonds, $29,000 Retail

Who or what is the biggest influence in your life? Any particular muse?

Fashion influences my work in a big way. I love to see the colors and textures that are working through the runways.

Tell me about your watches. What inspired you to venture into watch design? Who did you envision wearing them when you designed them?
I have always envisioned lighting up diamonds. One day I was trying to design a ring that would light up the center diamond, and one thing lead to another and the Prismatic Timepiece was born! My latest creation is the Radiance Collection. It’s a natural extension of my love for color. The collection emulates luxury through a celebration of vibrant colored baguette gemstones featuring sapphires and topazes and diamond bezel settings. The people who wear and adore my watches are chic, fashionable jet setters, often celebrities, from Russia to New York, Shanghai to Dubai.

Christian Tse Radiance Collection 38mm Rose Gold and Gemstone Watch on White Alligator Band, $15,000 Retail

What does your design process look like? Chaos or order :-)?
My approach to design is systematic. I am very particular on angles and measurements. The feel and wear of each design is closely followed. Proportions are closely paid attention to.

Early in your design career you did some very inventive designs with precious metals in interesting textures. Currently you are doing some very interesting things with precious gems as the focus. Do you prefer one particular medium?
I believe as time passes, and as I grow as an individual, my designs continue to evolve as well. I often search for the next influence in my designs. I am constantly challenging myself to push the envelope to develop new techniques, new materials, and new ideas. Who knows what medium I will be working on, maybe titanium, maybe concrete?

The designer himself, Christian Tse!

Thank you, Christian! You can find Christian’s designs in Neiman Marcus stores and a few fine boutiques across the country. If you would like to inquire about a design or find a retailer near you, contact his studio here.

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