updated 24 Dec 2010, 04:39
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Wed, Dec 08, 2010
China Daily/ANN
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Jewellery with a heart
by Usha Sankar

While some people believe the key to understanding the Chinese mind is learning Chinese characters, Jacqueline Rabenberg sees them as works of art embodying spiritual and philosophical meaning. Further, she believes wearing them close to your heart can guide you through the trials of life.

And that is why this winsome, blonde, former flight attendant, who has been living in China since 2007, launched a jewelry collection called Earth, which turns Chinese characters into rhodium-plated sterling silver pendants, earrings and rings.

Attracted to all things beautiful and colorful from a young age, this 38-year-old Dutch mother of three children says she was drawn to calligraphy the first time she set eyes on it.

Her beautiful home in Beijing's largely-expat neighborhood of Shunyi is ample proof of this fascination. Chinese characters, that she says reflect national characteristics, are set against the flags of countries as diverse as Japan, Switzerland and India, and are mounted in large frames on the walls of her house.

In 2008, she was introduced to the calligraphy of artist Bai Lin at the 798 art district and decided to give him "a way to express the meaning of his work through another product".

But why jewellery?

"You know, all women have two great loves, chocolate and jewelry," says Rabenberg, her eyes twinkling, adding that her Chinese name is "Qiaokeli" or chocolate.

That led to her second collection, Life.

Describing herself as a creative person - "I never just wrap up a gift, but make something different out of it" - she says it took living in China to bring out the designer in her.

"I've finally found what I want to do with my life. I'm happy and I know I make others happy because they tell me what wearing my jewelry has done for them.

"I'm attracted to calligraphy as I like the design of it, the look of it. But also, one character has different meanings," Rabenberg says.

"For example, the character le for happiness also means music. There is a deeper meaning to the way the characters are written and I want to convey this meaning through my jewelry."

Her first collection, Earth, gathers the characters for happiness, wisdom, and love. It also has zhong, which stands for: "China is the center of the world; Beijing is the center of China"

"Zhong also has strong connections to Confucius," Rabenberg says, her eyes straying to a copy of Quotations from Confucius lying on the table.

"I am amazed by the fact that so many of Confucius' sayings are still so relevant," she says, pointing out that some popular Dutch quotations, such as, "A craftsman must prepare his tools beforehand in order to do his work well" are from Confucius.

Every piece of her Life collection features 12 characters in the calligraphy of Bai and comes with a message such as, Dance "with your heart", or Buddha "will be with you".

"My jewellery will speak to you. Life is tough, but a happiness pendant can help you focus on all the good things in your life. It is nice to wear something with a positive meaning close to your body," Rabenberg says.

When not wearing the jewellery you can still enjoy its positive vibes by looking at it - hung on the wall, in beautiful, framed black boxes.

Rabenberg points out that every piece in her collections is hand crafted.

"The Western perception is that the quality of 'Made in China' goods is not that good, but I want to change that perception."

Unsurprisingly, her limited edition collection of just 88 pieces (the lucky double eight), cost up to 2,500 yuan (US$375) and generally retail at five-star hotels.

"Quality and exclusiveness come at a price," she insists.

After finding her true calling in China, Rabenberg is now ready to spread her wings. She is currently working with Dutch pop artist Clemens Briels, known for his use of vivid colors, for her soon-to-be launched Brielliant collection, that will feature his works, with a message appropriate for these strife-torn times: "Pass the dialogue, unite the world".

"It's a gift to be in China, to be here at this special time of great change. I feel very attached to China. I'm happy I created something here. I will keep the attachment forever," she says.

The new collection focuses on color and composition, as opposed to Earth and Life, which were about simplicity.

"I want to explore a variety of art forms in my designs," Rabenberg comments.

If you go

Jacky Jewelry's new collection Brielliant will be launched in the Touch bar at the Westin Chaoyang, on Jan 20, 5pm-8pm.

An exhibition will be held at the Kempinski Hotel, Symphony Room, Jan 21 - 23, 10.30am - 6pm; and at the Yan Club Arts Center, 798 Art District, Jan 24 - 26, 1030am - 6pm.

For more information, go to

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