In Asia, 3 Jewelry Brands Reflect the Times

Eufemia Didonato

TOKYO — Now that the pandemic has caused many travel plans to be delayed indefinitely, you can only daydream about destinations like Tokyo and Seoul (unless, of course, you live in one of those cities already).

But if you can’t visit such places, you can at least wear something that evokes them. Here is a sampling of the designers turning out the latest jewelry from Asia: sleek, conceptual creations; playful accessories for your facial mask; even full-finger rings. Enjoy the escape.

Seoul, South Korea

Hath, a business that was established only last December, had intended to debut this fall in Italy and Japan (where it had good retail partners and where there is a top-tier market for fine jewelry) — but 2020 had other ideas.

“We didn’t want to postpone our project, so we just changed the plan and launched in South Korea,” said Minyoung Park, 34, in a FaceTime interview from the company’s small, brick-walled atelier in Seoul.

He is in charge of communications, marketing, merchandising and retail. Hwaseung Lee, 39, and Hyunsuk Yang, 30, the designers and jewelry makers, complete the brand’s team.

Mr. Lee began working with metal about 20 years ago, while he was in the South Korean Army. (Service is compulsory for young men.) “I used to make drawings on Zippo lighters,” he said, and then give them to fellow soldiers as they finished their service. “They always loved them,” he added.

After completing his service, he lived in Tokyo for a year and, inspired by Japanese craftsmanship and materials, later enrolled as an apprentice in a workshop in Seoul to learn how to make jewelry. His day job, though, was as a buyer for luxury men’s wear.

Several years ago, the two interests merged. “We came up with the idea to make jewelry combining various metals and gemstones with fabric,” Mr. Lee said. The result was a collection called Ribbon in the Sky, which mixes metal charms with colored ribbons in bracelet, anklet, necklace and ring variations.

Some of his pieces, Mr. Hanabusa said, are designed for major impact in magazine shoots or music videos (like Nicki Minaj’s 2014 “Only” or Cardi B’s 2018 “Money”). G-Dragon, Grimes and Kat von D have also worn his creations.

Although his primary focus will remain custom-made pieces, Mr. Hanabusa plans to introduce a full ready-to-wear collection in the spring that will be sold in New York City (Shop Untitled) and London (Lab Store), and online. He said he aimed to suit a wide range of budgets and tastes with adjustable nail rings, nail helmets, fingertip rings, joint rings and various ear pieces, such as pointed elfin covers. Prices range from $50 to $250.

Mr. Hanabusa said he used to travel about half the year, meeting clients around the world. But the closed borders of 2020 haven’t been all bad.

“The pandemic gave me time to stop and think of new ideas and make new pieces,” he said.

Iwakura, Japan

“We wanted to see what it would be like when two people who study different fields, think differently and have opposite personalities created something on the same theme,” Mr. Nagasaki, 45, wrote in an email. “It was experimental, like a chemical reaction.” The formula worked: They married in 2002.

In 2010, the couple introduced the jewelry collection, conceptual pieces inspired by, as Mr. Nagasaki wrote, “invisible things such as the words in a conversation between two people.” They work in this small city just north of Nagoya.

At first sight, the square-, cube- and triangle-shaped items look like small art pieces and make you wonder what is the proper way to wear them. But that is the intended effect: Some rings double as ear cuffs, for example.

“Why don’t you change the way you think and you look at it?” Mr. Nagasaki wrote. “That is the concept we have created. It’s surprising and unexpected.”

The pieces come in sterling silver and 10-karat or 18-karat yellow gold, and the prices range from 5,000 yen ($48) for small silver cube earrings to about ¥53,000 for yellow gold rings.

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