Abigail Chui is an Gemologist, jewelry maker. Inspirational and successful woman who creates exceptional and unique jewelry.
Before we start can you share with me some details about you and your path
Hi, I’m Abigail. I’m a gemologist in training, jewelry history enthusiast, and a 3D designer and jeweller by trade. Currently making my own things part time (I have a full time job), but I’m treating this as a place to have fun and experiment, to learn about what I like and don’t like, about what I’m good at and what I possibly should outsource in the future.
My path hasn’t been very long. I never made jewelry until I went to university. And I went in not knowing a thing about it, considered leaving for a bit, and decided to stick it out. Then I graduated and started working for a fine jewelry company!
What first led you in the direction of making jewellery?
I kind of picked making jewelry as a compromise, but it worked out great because I found myself really enjoying it. Never made jewelry in my life until university. I knew I wanted to leave uni with a hard skill, preferably in a craft, but my parents are pragmatists and afraid for my potential future unemployment. Jewelry was the middle ground, so I applied to do that in uni and boom here I am.
Photo by Natalia Poniatowska
What has been the single most important jewellery-making skill you’ve learned and why?
If you want to hesitate, do it before starting. Once you’ve made a decision and started the process, don’t hesitate until you’ve seen it through. And if it really was a mistake, then you know for next time.
You have no idea how many Times I’ve melted silver because of it. But it’s a good thing to practice in general, I think.
What inspires your creativity when making a new pieces of jewelry?
Honestly, I have no idea. Could probably be anything. It actually seems like I have more creative blocks than proper creative grooves now that I think of it. Maybe I’m not doing it right yet. Still working on it I guess!
But in general I get really excited to be creative when I learn new things, like new techniques, materials, symbols, motives, styles, and all that jazz.
What are your favourite materials to use?
It changes from time to time, but I’ve been working with pearls for a while now so I’ll have to say pearls.
What’s your favourite piece of jewellery that you’ve made before and why?
This black bead necklace. I found a way to colour the pearls by burning them, then crushing them and making them into new ‘pearls’ by mixing it with a binder. They were then strung up as you would with regular pearls, knots and all.
It reminds me of the night sky, and that possibilities are always there, you just need to see it. Also it took a ton of work and I won Talent Spotted award from The Goldsmiths’ Centre and several other recognitions, so I am quite proud of it.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start in the industry?
Think really hard about it.
This isn’t entirely about me or my personality, but I thought it’s worth adding – There was a period of time where I couldn’t bring myself to make anything because I was so paralysed by the ethics of jewellery making (mining, fair trade gems, blood diamonds, sustainability and the practicality of business).
I wanted to address it, to do good, but they just seemed like mountains too high for me to climb. I mean, how can I possibly make anything beautiful when someone might have died or been born blind to get these materials on my bench? If there are any jewellers out there who feel the same way or have thoughts about it, talk to other jewellers who’ve been through it, talk to people who have been in the industry, particularly the gem trade, and listen to as many sides of the story as possible (the traders, miners, teachers, etc). Then make your own decision. My inbox is open if you would like to chat. I’m not an expert in any way, but I can be a listening ear!