"In the Chinese folktale, we have this god, the god of the moon. He's quite old, he's like Zeus in mythology. He ties red strings around babies before they are born, and then they are destined to be together. So, it's very symbolic."
Anna Hu (right) sat across the table from me at her shop beneath the legendary Plaza Hotel
, presiding over a collection of flawless stones worth millions, arranged neatly by color like baubles in a bead shop. On my wrist I wore the bracelet version of this knot ring
(below) -- probably the only one in existence. The highest volume of any item Hu has ever produced, with the exception of the linked items at Kabiri at Selfridges, is three.
"The technique is to really feel like a red string. At first, I was going to make it as a bangle, and then I thought, 'But people could copy that.' So, I converted it. The shape of the heart is stable, but [the rest] is flexible."
"Would you give it to someone who was getting married?" I asked.
"It's more of a romance-related item. I created the item because a lot of couples are so deeply in love with each other, but if the timing's not right ... before marriage, why don't we have a pre-bridal collection? We could call it 'Romance.'"
Anna Hu is a jewelry designer who came to America from Taiwan as a cello prodigy when she was 14 years old to attend Walnut Hill
, a prestigious arts boarding school. She went on to The New England Conservatory of Music, but hurt her shoulder. It was then that she decided to join the family business; her father is a gems dealer. "I went to my father. It was all meant to be," she said humbly. The pain of losing her first love to an injury was palpable as she talked about the switch:
"Well, I hurt my shoulder, so what could I do?"
Apparently, a lot. Hu went on to obtain a masters degree in Art History from Parsons School of Design and a second in Arts Administration at Columbia University, as well as a Graduate Gemologist Degree from the Gemological Institute of America
. She started her jewelry brand at age 29.
Hu's music background is more than evident in her work. She is inspired by music and musicians she meets, such as Madonna, for whom she has created several pieces
. She listens to music while she designs, and can remember exactly what she was listening to when she looks at her completed works.
"I have to listen to music," says Hu. "Rachmaninoff, Bach, sometimes I can only listen to Pacanini ... I feel all the technical challenge, and like, convert it into jewelry." ... "I have this sense of illusion
of movement. If a jewelry piece cannot move, I have to make it look as though it's moving."