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Luxury jewellery made from lab-grown gemstones and recycled metals

Photograph of Anabela Chan
Anabela Chan
Photographer: Michael Leckie
Can luxury jewellery be ethical and desirable? London-based award-winning jewellery designer and RCA alumna Anabela Chan has the answer.

‘I wanted to create equally beautiful and fabulous unique jewels ... without the conflict, humanitarian issues and untraceable provenance associated with mining.’

On graduating from the RCA in 2013 Anabela launched her eponymous brand with Selfridges, The Conran Shop and Luisa Via Roma who had all discovered her work at the RCA work-in-progress and graduate shows.

Rose Sapphire Poppy Earrings
Rose Sapphire Poppy Earrings, Anabela Chan
‘When I founded my brand, it was my mission to offer a different perspective in the industry’, she explained. ‘I wanted to create equally beautiful and fabulous unique jewels using laboratory-grown and created gemstones without the conflict, humanitarian issues and untraceable provenance associated with mining.’

‘It was a truly multidisciplinary experience across the College campus ... I loved the diversity.’

Trained as an architect and a specialist in print and embroidery design, Anabela has worked with Lord Richard Rogers and Alexander McQueen. At the RCA, she adapted these skills and applied this experience to jewellery design.

drawings for rainbow bloom earrings
Rainbow Bloom Earrings, Anabela Chan

‘Some of my most fond memories are working with the incredible team of technicians within and beyond my department’, she reflected. ‘It was a truly multidisciplinary experience across the College campus from the glass blowing workshop, wood workshop and beyond. I loved the diversity.’

However, the most important thing Anabela learnt at the RCA was: ‘to always be curious, to keep learning everyday and most of all to enjoy what you do and have fun along the way.’ She sums up the RCA spirit as believing ‘there is no limit to possibilities.’

Building a brand ‘with a defined vision, a lot of common sense and gut instincts’

Limitless possibilities characterise Anabela’s career to date. Since graduating she has built her brand ‘with a defined vision, a lot of common sense and gut instincts’. This has resulted in her establishing two boutiques in London, winning five international awards from Vogue Talents and her jewellery being worn on the red carpet by stars such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Lupita Nyong’o and Taylor Swift.

Anabela Chan boutique
Anabela Chan Boutique

However, Anabela’s proudest achievement so far is ‘being able to do what I love, make a difference in the world and touch people’s lives where it matters most.’ As well as making choices to use sustainable and ethical materials, giving back is an important aspect of her business. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and challenges of 2020 she has raised over $88,000 for 10 charities worldwide.

‘It is about learning from the past, to offer a different perspective in the present, and always with a dream for a better future.’

Jewellery made from recycled aluminium
Aluminium Blooms, Anabela Chan
Anabela describes Blooms!, her recent collection of statement earrings and brooch pins as ‘a dramatic, unusual and sculptural collection of blossoming blooms’. This exquisite and desirable jewellery is made with recycled and refined aluminium from drinks cans and laboratory-grown gemstones in vivid hues. ‘It is my most exciting and innovative collection yet,’ Anabela added, ‘essentially turning “trash into treasures”.’

Contrasting natural and man-made materials brings an exciting frisson to Anabela’s work. ‘I never think that it is a competition between the two genres, but rather offering a different perspective and option to the consumer, a more accessible and mindful alternative that shines a light on ethics and sustainability within our centuries-old industry. As with all design disciplines, I believe it is about learning from the past, to offer a different perspective in the present, and always with a dream for a better future.’

rainbow aluminium earrings
Rainbow Acid Bloom Earrings, Anabela Chan

‘Jewellery has the magic to empower and bring immense joy’

Ruby earrings
Ruby Sunset Starburst Earrings, Anabela Chan
To Anabela, designing jewellery is about more than creating beautiful objects. ‘Jewellery has the magic to empower and bring immense joy’ she states. ‘For something so small that can be held in the palm of your hand, it can hold a world of emotions and memories.’ This belief is at the core of her brand, which proves that luxury jewellery can be ethical and sustainable without losing any of the allure.

Interested in questioning what materials mean to us and how they define our daily interactions with the world?

 Find out more about studying MA Jewellery & Metal at the RCA.