Designing with New Chinese Emeralds

I had never heard of emeralds in China and yet here was the Chinese mine owner asking me to design and produce a jewelry collection with Chinese emeralds. This is the tale of how I became the first jewelry designer to work with China’s first emeralds.

These Chinese emeralds were discovered around three years ago in a mine in Yunnan Province, south west China. Since I know that Afghanistan and Pakistan have produced some beautiful emeralds, this Yunnan mine is potentially in a good area. Each mine’s geological heritage is critical to the quality and size of the gemstones. 

One of my customers had introduced me to the mine owner, by the name of ??? or Shi Yongming. At our first meeting in my shop, he unveiled the Middle Kingdom’s first emeralds. Working with rough stones is what I love, and so when he gave me free rein to design a collection, I couldn’t refuse!

I took the emeralds home and started to get to know them. It’s hard to explain how I find inspiration for my designs, but I knew I wanted to do something very modern, but with a nod to the stones’ Chinese origins. I had other design work, so it took me about a month to draw and paint the designs for an 18-piece collection.

When I sent Shi Yongming my designs, he and his team loved them all; he did not reject any! The next stop was my workshop in Beijing. It took my artisans two and half months to finish the collection. I returned to the workshop many, many times, overseeing production and quality every step of the way.

I’m very proud of this collection. When it came time to hand them over, I didn’t want to give them up! It will be sold under my Paloma Sanchez brand, but it won’t be sold at my shop. One of my clients came into the shop as I was preparing the collection for the mine owner. She wanted to buy a piece as soon as she saw them and I had to tell her this collection wasn’t mine to sell. 

As an experienced gem hunter, I have one regret. I have not been able to visit the mine in Yunnan Province, as women are not allowed to visit mines in China. Local custom decrees that it’s unlucky to take a woman to a mine – a custom that is prevalent in a few other countries. With this said, if I had been to the mine, these are exactly the pieces I would have chosen to make the first Chinese emerald collection!”

Yunnan emerald necklace
Yunnan emerald crystal necklace
Stowe Sprague