Dragon Ascending: The Modern Jadeite Treasures of HEHE High Jewelry

Recently, I visited the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris to see a special one-day exhibition of HEHE High Jewelry, which specialises in contemporary jadeite jewels that fuse traditional Chinese cultural motifs with Western jewellery-making influences. Titled ‘Eternal Elegance of HE’, the exhibit was the perfect opportunity to view Tong Mou’s creations in real life and dive deeper into her poetic inspirations. While browsing the new Ascending Dragon High Jewellery collection, I was formulating questions to ask Tong about her unique approach to haute joaillerie. Here are the results of that conversation…

If you are not familiar with HEHE High Jewelry, the brand was founded by Tong Mou in Hangzhou, China, in 2010. She’s particularly focused on the concept of ‘preserving beauty’ through richly hued green, violet, and colourless jadeite, as well as diamonds, coloured gemstones, and occasionally warm sandalwood. Over the last 14 years, she has built a brand that celebrates Chinese traditions, motifs, ideas, and histories while also tapping into a little bit of Place Vendôme-style magic. If you are visiting Hangzhou, you will find HEHE boutiques in four locations, including the Grand Hyatt and Four Seasons hotels, which is indicative of the HEHE success story. 

Katerina Perez with HEHE High Jewelry founder Tong Mou

HEHE High Jewelry has been on my radar for many years, but this is the first time I have been able to encounter the brand so close to home in Paris. Some of Tong Mou’s creations remain in my mind’s eye, like the Eternal Iris brooch with an 80-carat natural unheated sugarloaf Burmese blue sapphire and the Lumière Harmony brooch with a 10.88-carat hexagonal diamond, a 5.11-carat shield-shaped diamond, and a 12.28-carat shield-shaped emerald, fashioned like a wearable, floral medallion. There’s also the West Lake collection filled with jewelled dragonflies and butterflies, and the World Harmony offering with full-green jadeite double loops that “are considered the epitome of jadeite elegance for the Eastern elite,” according to the brand. 

“We have gathered precious collections to engrave emotion into art. This May, in Paris, we look forward to experiencing the beauty of China together with you,” HEHE High Jewelry team. 

The ‘Eternal Elegance of HE’ exhibition in May was specially timed to coincide with the Year of the Dragon (the backdrop for the Ascending Dragon High Jewellery collection) and the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and France, which is a lovely acknowledgement of the East-meets-West mentality. It consisted of three distinct chapters, starting with Dragon’s Essence and the latest High Jewellery offering. The Ascending Dragon draws inspiration from the constellations that would guide ancient Chinese farmers throughout the crop cycle, helping them to know when to plant their seeds based on the lights in the sky. It features full-green jadeite double loops, spade-shaped jadeite, columns, cabochons, and many other iterations of this important cultural mineral. Tong Mou shares her key creations below, but I will admit to having a special love for the red tourmaline and sandalwood Dual Dragon Disc brooch, crafted in platinum and diamonds, which is said to evoke nobility, warmth, and passion. 

A model wears the HEHE High Jewelry Celestial Veneration Dual Dragon Disc brooch from the Ascending Dragon High Jewellery collection with sandalwood, diamonds and red tourmalines in platinum, also shown on the right

The second chapter – Refined Elegance – featured modern jadeite masterpieces to “showcase the vitality, prosperity and elegance of the Chinese aesthetic”. Imagine a necklace inspired by the Forbidden City, earrings like dragon scales, and reimagined phoenix feathers all crafted to complement traditional Chinese garments (such as the qipao) and modern attire. Again, if I had to pick one piece, it would be the Grand Harmony necklace with rubies and white jade, plus the matching double-finger ring. 

Finally, the third area of the one-day exhibition was titled ‘Flowers in the Wild’, depicting gem-set floral blooms in whimsical vases across a series of brooches. What I loved about this take on flowers was its subtle references to Chinese everyday life, connecting floristry with the changing seasons, utensils, furniture and so on. Without any further ado, let’s hear more about this exhibition direct from the woman behind HEHE High Jewelry, who will hopefully return to Paris sometime soon with more of her masterpieces.

Katerina Perez: Tell me about your journey as an artist jeweller; where does you passion for high jewellery come from? 


Tong Mou: I have been in the jewellery industry for over 15 years, and it still makes me happy. My passion started when I was young when I received my first piece of jewellery from my mother. I am also a dedicated art lover, and I draw inspiration from art pieces from various civilisations. 

Models wear the HEHE High Jewelry Dragon Ascension brooch with spade-shaped jadeite, white jade, diamonds and rubies (left) and the Regal Dragon Ascendancy necklace and earrings with red spinel beads and diamonds, all from the Ascending Dragon High Jewellery collection

KP: What can you share about the creative process that led to the many beautiful masterpieces I saw in the Eternal Elegance of HEHE exhibition? 


TM: We offer bespoke, individualized pieces and creations that belong to various collections. For the latter, we usually start with a specific design concept, and our design team illustrates the theme based on our shared interpretation. For example, in the case of the Ascending Dragon Jadeite High Jewellery collection, it all started with the dragon. The year 2024 marks the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese lunar calendar, so we wanted a collection that is connected to the dragon totem that spans seven millennia of Chinese history. Our design team has scoured for aesthetic influences from historical artefacts, such as bronzeware, painted bricks, ancient Chinese discs, as well as components in classical architecture to bring the collection to life. 

HEHE High Jewelry Dragon’s Bright Serenity Curled Grass brooch with diamonds, yellow sapphire, a green jadeite cabochon and rock crystal from the Ascending Dragon High Jewellery collection

KP: Your modern jewels are defined by jadeite in different hues, shapes, and sizes. How do you select jadeite for your work?


TM: It really depends on the jewellery itself. For our high jewellery collections, we usually start with a motif, or the design comes first. However, for major pieces, the jadeite always comes first. As in the case of the Dragonfly’s Realm brooch, it was crafted from three pieces of Imperial green jadeite cabochons, so the contours of the dragonfly’s body were based on the curves of the jadeites. 

KP: When you work on high jewellery, what are some of the challenges you face? Can you pinpoint a particular jewel that was especially difficult to produce? 


TM: I am thinking of an important brooch in our new collection called Dragon Ascension. In this work, we used various types of gemstones and metals, including white jade, red ruby, green jadeite, 18k white gold and black gold. These colours were all inspired by Dunhuang murals. For the first time, we attempted to carve a whole piece of white jade and combine it with metal… through repeated experiments, we were able to achieve a graceful expression of our original idea. This was a challenging piece of work, for sure!

KP: Finally, out of all the pieces you have produced, can you name two or three that you are especially proud of? Why do these creations spring to mind? 


TM: The Grand Harmony jadeite and ruby necklace from the National Grace collection is inspired by the most authentic architecture in China, the Forbidden City. The overall colour scheme is white, red, and green, which also has links to the palace complex. Next, there’s Dragon’s Rhythmic Rise with white and yellow diamonds, onyx, and a spade-shaped green jadeite that draws inspiration from the gilded dragon of the Tang Dynasty. The entire design is full of rhythm and masculinity, but at the same time, it also conveys the unique vitality and liveliness of the prosperous Tang Dynasty. 

Finally, there’s a work by Yuting Wanqian, created in 2018, that depicts a dragonfly gliding over the surface of the West Lake in Hangzhou, where our brand is located. These three jadeites are from the same source, and it is extremely rare to find them in matching size and colour. I like this piece because it depicts the daring traits of the dragonfly.

HEHE High Jewelry Butterfly Dreams brooch with 19 green jadeites of various shapes and sizes, set alongside white and yellow diamonds

There’s nothing like getting up close and personal with high jewels, especially if they are as intricate and dynamic as these pieces by HEHE High Jewelry. If you had the opportunity to attend the one-day exhibition, I hope you discovered the same uplifting sense of inspiration and abundant creativity as I did. Let’s hope the brand makes a triumphant return to Paris sometime soon! 

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