text by By Jewel Chuaunsu
The term “wearable art” has gained traction, usually in describing a jewel with sculptural qualities or elaborate construction. There have been divisions between fine arts and decorative arts, but what’s interesting is how many well-known artists have dabbled in jewelry. These include Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Giorgio de Chirico, Alexander Calder, Yayoi Kusama, Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons, and Anish Kapoor, among others. In 1959, Dali was quoted as saying, “In jewels, as in all my art, I create what I love.”
Exhibitions such as The Art of Bulgari at San Francisco’s de Young Museum and the Cartier Retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris give rise to the idea that precious jewelry can be both worn and appreciated for its artistic merit. Over the past few years, the Yuchengco Museum in Manila has also exhibited the jewelry creations of artists and jewelry designers.
This non-traditional approach to jewelry– treating it as both personal adornment and sculpture – has always been the raison d’être of Hoseki, whose pieces derive their worth not simply from costly materials, but more so from the cultural value of the concept and reputation of its creator, like art itself. For the past 22 years, Hoseki has carved out a market for jewelry as an art piece, and vice versa, breaking boundaries in the process.
Hoseki is one of the Philippines’ premier jewelry salons, showcasing world-class craftsmanship and design. Sought after for its creative edge and intricate detail, Hoseki’s handmade pieces are designed with thoughtfulness and care. Their jewelry designers work with a wide range of materials to create wearable art rendered in South Sea pearls, the finest gemstones, precious metals, and local indigenous materials.
Hoseki offers exquisite jewels that are handcrafted to perfection—from classic to contemporary pieces, everyday staples to statement jewelry, family heirlooms to extraordinary investment pieces.
The two designers of Hoseki ‒ Fai Co and Knoi Esmane ‒ have their own design preferences. Fai has an affinity for dainty flowers and a feminine look. Knoi tends to make bold chunky jewelry that “can be seen two kilometers away.”
“My designs require execution by master craftsmen,” says Fai. With three consecutive wins in the International South Sea Pearl Design Competition under his belt, he continues to innovate in his chosen field. He was included in the South Sea Pearl Consortium’s White Magic, a traveling exhibition and publication featuring works by 17 world-renowned jewelry artists.
In spite of its flamboyance, Knoi’s designs reflect his love for the abstract, linear, and minimalist. He has 13 international citations/awards, making him the Philippines’ most internationally awarded jewelry designer. He is one of the directors of the Guild of Philippine Jewellers, Inc. and also heads the Hiyas Award, the country’s top jewelry design competition. The Hoseki team’s creative process starts with a brainstorming session. Some of the things that inspire them include traveling and the materials they are able to find. After brainstorming and collecting materials, the next step is drawing sketches, which can add up to as many as 100-200 sketches. From there, they choose which designs will be manufactured.
Hoseki and Art
Hoseki Jewelry Art was founded in 1996 by Fai Co, a second-generation jeweler. In the 1960s, Fai’s father set up the first pearl farm in the Philippines, located in Zamboanga, and eventually opened a jewelry store in Hong Kong. As he was growing up, Fai was exposed to pearl farming and jewelry design. After graduating from college with a degree in Architecture, Fai ventured into different businesses. Most of their harvested pearls were exported abroad, but he ultimately decided to establish a retail outlet ‒ a jewelry store ‒ for the pearls here in the Philippines. Initially, the core strength of the company was having its own pearl farm, but they eventually diversified into using other materials such as diamonds and colored stones.
For more than two decades, Hoseki has been designing, manufacturing, and retailing fine jewelry. “Hoseki as a firm, as a design house, is focused on making jewelry as an art piece,” says Knoi. Their vision to produce wearable art sets them apart from other jewelry companies.
Every piece created by Hoseki is truly one of a kind. Knoi stresses that there is no duplication in the production. “Should there be a desire or a request for duplication, we make it a point that the second piece is still different from the first one, either by including a different stone, or putting a little twist here and there,” he explains. Their clients won’t ever have to worry about wearing the same jewelry as someone else at a party.
Everything is made by Filipinos. “We take pride in our artisans, and they’re very good in terms of skills,” says Knoi. Hoseki has a penchant for incorporating precious stones (diamonds, topaz, sapphire, beryl, pearl, jade, etc.) and precious metals (gold, silver, platinum) with local indigenous materials such as kamagong wood, mother-of-pearl, and carabao horn. According to Knoi, the use of these materials“highlights the creativity of Filipino designers and artisans, and the abundance of materials that we have around us.” The native materials are locally sourced, sustainable, and eco-friendly.
Knoi shares, “We are very respectful of the environment. If we ever use wood, this is wood found floating in the sea. Because it has already weathered the storms and the elements, you can be rest assured these are strong materials. We don’t have to cut down trees just to getkamagong. These are old, sometimes centuries-old, wood and shells that we use.”
Hoseki embraces natural imperfections. “Sometimes coloration is not perfect. There will be certain areas that are darker than the rest. But it’s okay because it gives a certain character to the piece. Our clients and patrons are aware of that and they love having a little imperfection because it only shows that it’s really handmade,” adds Knoi.
What’s Next for Hoseki
Hoseki has big plans for the future. They are planning to publish a coffee table book in 2021, in time for their 25th anniversary.
The book will feature all of their stunning pieces through the years. Another goal is to put up their own jewelry design and manufacturing school. “In the Philippines, we are running out of good jewelry craftsmen,” says Knoi. For instance, goldsmithing is a dying industry. Skills and techniques are typically passed down from father to child. However, the next generation is not really interested in continuing the family tradition. Hoseki seeks to bring back the glory days of jewelry making by establishing a school.
In 2017, Hoseki actually launched two collections: The Return of the Jadeite Collection and Art Nouveau Cameo Collection. The former breathed new life into the natural Burmese jade with a collection that was divided into different looks based on four historical periods of jewelry styles: Art Nouveau, Oriental, Art Deco, and Moderne. These influences revived a love affair with jade.
The Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist Alphonse Mucha inspired the second collection. Natural agate cameos sourced from Germany were fashioned into wearable Art Nouveau sculptures incorporating the age-old tradition of enameling—a technique studied by Knoi in Rome.
As for what’s currently in the pipeline, they are creating a collection using bronze mabeÅL pearls, which are half-pearls cultivated inside the oyster’s shell. They are also working on a collection called Fleurs de Nuit (Flowers of the Night), which consists of luxe floral jewelry that’s solely black in color
The New Hoseki Store
The Podium has long been the home of the Hoseki store. It recently underwent extensive renovation and opened a new wing. Hoseki took this as an opportunity to relocate to a bigger space at the mall.
The newly constructed store – which had its soft opening on November 2017 – does not look like a typical jewelry shop.
Mirroring the personal aesthetic of Fai, the store exudes an Old World charm and feeling of opulence. It is dimly lit, with a color palette dominated by dark wenge, gold, metals, black and brown. Various figurative sculptures are placed around the store. Near the entrance is a large-scale interaction painting by Dominic Rubio and Fai Co. The centerpiece of the showroom is the main jewelry showcase, which was built to resemble a diamond.
The most prominent feature is the “Jewelry Door,” a double wrought iron glass door inspired by one of the gates of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Precious materials such as pearl and natural agates were incorporated in the ornamentation of the door panels. Each panel has eight decorative frogs. Th e frogs are auspicious and meaningful. Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture, while the frogs recall one of Knoi’s winning pieces, “The Frog Prince,” which was recognized in an international competition.
Hanging on opposite walls are designers’ sketches, dating as far back as the 1960s up to present time. These allow the clients to appreciate the creative process and the fact that the designs are hand drawn, not computer-aided.
At almost 140 square meters, the store is the biggest in The Podium. The space is divided into three areas. At the front is the “battleground” where all transactions take place. Further inside is an enclosed area that serves as an exhibition/workshop space. In the future, they plan to conduct jewelry design workshops and hold exhibitions dedicated to jewelry and art collaborations.
The third area houses a small workshop room for doing jewelry repairs on the spot, a pantry where they prepare food and drinks for clients, and an elegant black tile washroom.
The store had its grand opening on 22 March 2018. Aside from Hoseki Founder Fai Co and Corporate Affairs Director Zabeth Co, guests for the ribbon-cutting ceremony included Dominic and Vivian Rubio; entrepreneur Mary Lui; Madison Galeries Lifestyle Mall owner Joy Rustia; Mme. Lizia Lu, former Ambassador of Panama to Vietnam and the wife of the Ambassador of Israel to the Philippines; Nona Go; and SM Vice President for Operations Ian Mathay. In contrast to the grandeur of the store, Hoseki wanted to keep their opening launch low-key. It was a simple gathering of all their friends and clients.
Beyond jewelry, the legacy of Hoseki is rooted in relationships they’ve built with clients, who have become their longtime friends. “Your client should be able to trust you, that what you’re selling them is something that will last for a lifetime, or something that can be given to the next generation. We fulfi ll that promise,” says Knoi.