If Madonna called, would you fly halfway around the world to meet her?
Anna Hu did, and rightfully so.
"I have so much respect for Madonna - she is an icon in every aspect," remarks the New York-based jewelry designer who was in Taiwan when the singer reached out through an aide. "I got off the phone and went straight to the airport."
Hu arrived home 24 hours later, time being of the essence as Madonna was looking for jewelry to wear that night to the Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Hu came bearing several pieces from her various collections, but it was the cross around her neck that caught Madonna's eye.
"It's one of the 50 crosses I designed when I was studying at Parsons and F.I.T.," Hu says. The 6-carat, D-colour diamond cross is in an Edelweiss motif.
The star chose that and a pair of colourful drop earrings inspired by Monet's Water Lilies to wear with a ruched dress by Louis Vuitton. The earrings are comprised of 28 carats of natural colored sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and diamonds with pear-shape emerald drops. "I really wanted to do something that captured the impressionist colours of the painting and the tones of the stones matched perfectly," Hu says. "Jewelry design is all about luck."
Well, not exactly. Talent and drive are just as crucial and Hu has both.
Born 32 years ago in Taiwan, Hu's training began at the age of 8 when she helped her father, a diamond dealer, sort stones. She moved to the U.S. to study cello, but her career was cut short by tendonitis in her shoulder. She turned her attention to jewelry, earning her one-year graduate gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America in a record three months. She went on to work for Christie's, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston and master jeweler Maurice Galli. Hu also attained two master's degrees, one in art history and another in arts administration.
But it is classical music that most inspires her work. A tiara that flips 180 degrees to convert to a necklace is based on Rachmaninov's inversion of Paganini's Variations. The sorrowful key of G flat minor sparks images of lavender sapphires that resemble teardrops in Hu's mind.
"Jewelry design to me is composing," she says. No wonder her work has a lyrical quality, as in the waves of blue that surround a 12 carat Kashmir sapphire. The stone took Hu nine months to source for a client who wanted nothing but the best - a mandate that suited Hu just fine. "I do my best to achieve perfection and I am unstoppable," she admits. "I even dream about stones when I sleep."
Anna Hu is available at Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie boutiques in Taiwan, and The Plaza Hotel in New York.
By Bernadette Morra