Eye for Design: The Movement Infused Jewels of Zeemou Zeng

If you’re the type who finds comfort in the playful mobility of jewellery – the tactility of its finish and the twist and turns of coloured gems on your finger and around your neck – then you’ll find a kindred spirit in Zeemou Zeng, the China-born, UK trained jeweller with a knack for kinetics. I spoke to Zeemou to learn more about the values underpinning his designs and discover the sources of his boundless inspiration.

Fine jewellery is a serious business, but that doesn’t mean it has to take itself too seriously. In my experience, there is an art to injecting jewellery with playfulness without diminishing its desirability or the luxuriousness of its materials or finishing. Of all the jewellers whom I have met in recent years striving to achieve this delicate balance, one of the top performers is Zeemou Zeng, who founded his eponymous brand in 2017. Zeemou specialises in contemporary fine jewellery with a special characteristic: pieces contain moving gemstone elements that add a lovely, tactile element of surprise. 

Jewellery designer Zeemou Zeng

“Each of my fine jewellery pieces is inspired by the values of personal freedom and independence,” Zeemou tells me. “My signature is movement, which I use to ‘free gemstones’ in my designs and lend a joyful, playable facet to my pieces. I mix the traditional with the modern to create directional pieces that have a chic androgynous aesthetic. My designs are gender fluid, appealing to both men and women; I hope that they will stand the test of time.”

That juxtaposition of joyful playfulness, which we associate with childhood, and the fierce independence that we see in confident adults is what draws me to Zeemou’s jewels. Perhaps this emerges from his background in architecture, which is all about bending the rules of geometry and physics to create engaging spaces. However, if you ask Zeemou, he attributes his signature style to his upbringing in China, and his studies across the world at University of the Arts London. He says: “My inspiration comes from my personal experiences. I lived away from my parents from a very early age, which made me independent, self-reliant, and free-spirited. Deep-rooted in my heart is a natural curiosity to explore the world and seek out adventure.”

Designing the Dangle earrings from The Impressionists collection by Zeemou Zeng

This curiosity extends to materials such as crystal (more on that later), ceramics and porcelain, as well as the mechanics of movement and unusual setting styles. As for his other inspiration, he cites “travelling, culture and contemporary art”. He adds: “I trained as an interior and architecture designer. I love architecture; I draw on these experiences and impressions, often in unexpected ways. I always strive to bring ‘newness’ to my jewellery designs.”

I’m definitely not the only one watching Zeemou’s career unfold. He was named a ‘Bright New Gem’ at International Jewellery London in 2018 and secured the Gold Award in the Fine Jewellery Boodles Award and Production Jewellery categories at the Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council Awards (also known as the ‘UK Jewellery Oscars’) in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Plus, he was nominated for Young Jewellery Designer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards in 2019 and won in the same category in 2020… not bad for someone who only started their brand a handful of years ago!

Zeemou Zeng Mini Eye unisex pendant necklace in 18k yellow gold with green chalcedony

The story started with the debut Melody collection, which incorporates a unique movement mechanism to allow pearls and gemstone spheres to slide and create a new look each time a piece is worn. This kind of non-typical solution to gemstone setting really demonstrates what’s possible when you think outside the box. It’s also indicative of Zeemou’s gemstone preferences: “I prefer cabochon, which is very soft and tactile. I feel safety, comfort and the power of healing when I touch them. That’s why you can see a lot of beads and cabochon gemstones in my jewellery creations.”

Pieces in the Melody collection are described as “playable” because they create a different chime depending upon the length of the tube used. I especially like the design of the collection, which is reminiscent of Art Deco skyscrapers, and the way in which the tube motif translates across earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and cufflinks. My favourites are the Melody cocktail rings, notably in combinations of white gold and deep green chalcedony and rose gold with amethysts. 

The Eye collection is perhaps the most quirky, complete with a roving gemstone eye, studded with a bezel-set gemstone pupil, surrounded by an eye-shaped cage of 18k gold. The gemstone eyeball, whether chalcedony, pearl, amethysts, tiger’s eye or kyanite, is free to move around inside its shell, almost as if it is following the movement of its wearer! And, because the entire spherical stone can rotate, each side is set with a different gemstone accent – a ruby, diamond or emerald – to create a magical effect. This collection has the same characteristic flair as Melody but with a kind of surrealist, Salvador Dali-inspired edge that’s expressive and conversation-starting. Speaking of famous painters, this is a good opportunity to mention The Impressionists collection. This newer offering with moving multi-coloured gemstone beads captures the colours in works by Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste-Renoir, and Édouard Manet, among others. The Impressionists Bangle with an unbroken hoop of moving gold beads is the perfect choice for anyone who wishes there was a stylish (and luxurious) fidget spinner on the market!

Zeemou Zeng Impressionists unisex bangle in 18k yellow gold with moving gold beads

Of course, I can’t forget the Heart collection. Here, the movement emerges in the form of a gold, mother of pearl or diamond-set teardrop, which slides to reveal a pavé diamond panel. Together, these elements form the shape of a heart, with a mechanism that is not dissimilar to the pivot of a jeweller’s loupe. I especially like the Beating Heart brooch, which “reinvents the classic symbol of love into an exciting contemporary piece,” Zeemou tells me. He adds: “The Beating Heart brooch incorporates a unique movement mechanism. Once we give one bead a push, it will drive all the gemstone beads and circulate them within the heart-shaped gold setting, like rainbow blood flowing within the heart.” There are 27 beads within the heart-shaped golden tubing, including carnelian, amethyst, and blue, green and yellow chalcedony, which can be commissioned in the client’s choice of yellow, white or rose gold. 

Zeemou Zeng Beating Heart brooch in 18k yellow gold with 27 rainbow coloured gemstone beads

Finally, a nod to Zeemou Zeng’s other passion: crystalware. His Gemstone Cut collection includes crystal glasses with facet patterns modelled after actual diamond cutting techniques. According to Zeemou, he has “ambitions to grow and become a global lifestyle brand, epitomising all that is innovative, chic and stylish,” which sounds like an exciting trajectory. As we are in the midst of Chinese New Year celebrations, it is fitting to turn the spotlight on a promising Chinese-born designer who has already achieved so much in a short space of time. Zeemou also promises me that he'll launch a new signature design in 2024 rather than a full collection. I can only imagine what moving elements and unique setting styles will be on display.

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