Why my fascination with gems and jewellery?
Ever since I can remember, I had a creative streak. I would spend hours drawing, painting, sewing, baking or pressing flowers. I kept little boxes filled with seashells, pebbles and ribbons. I loved discovering and exploring. Often my grandmother would find me in the attic rummaging through boxes of knick-knacks, and if I were lucky, my mother would take me antiquing along Cat Street in Hong Kong.
My mother had an unusual jewellery box. It was an Indian silver box encrusted with tumbled amethyst stones that could spin and move like the beads on an abacus.
That jewelled box opened a world of wonder for me. Among the inexpensive bead necklaces and brass bracelets were a strand of pearls, a jade bracelet, and my favourite, a small bejewelled fish brooch, signed Cartier. At the time, I had no idea who Cartier was, but I could see that it was special.
My mother was a classic beauty, and she had an extraordinary taste. She looked elegant and stunning in an Oscar de La Renta evening gown and a bespoke sapphire bracelet. She was quintessentially chic wearing Gloria Vanderbilt jeans with her signature cultured pearl studs. Small trinkets or a significant stone, every jewel she owned had a story behind it.
When I was 16, my mother gave me a parcel of small marquise-shaped diamonds. Rather than accept the gift, I designed a pair of diamond ear clips in the style of Harry Winston. In return, she would let friends know that I was the designer. They were one of her favourites and seeing them on her; they were my favourite too.
That jewellery box sealed my fate. I received my diploma in gemmology at the Gemmological Institute of Great Britain. I furthered my education at the Gemmological Institute of America in pearl grading, counter sketching and jewellery design. It’s essential to stay educated, and recently, I completed and passed the CAT exam to become an IRV (Institute of Registered Valuers).
I worked at Sotheby’s and Van Cleef & Arpels, where I had the privilege of handling some of the world’s rarest gems and jewellery.
I’ve catalogued private collections and handled rare museum pieces. I’ve met interesting gem dealers, designers and jewellery connoisseurs from all over the world. I’ve acted as a jewellery consultant to private individuals, held seminars with leading jewellery brands and conducted handling sessions with auction houses.
I’m humbled by how fortunate I’ve been. I learned the value of jewellery and the importance of provenance. Over the years, I‘ve also realised that the people and stories connected to jewellery often have more significance and meaning than the gems themselves. They are the ones that bring jewellery to life.
The world of gems and jewellery is an exciting one. Join me as we discover all things brilliant, bright and beautiful.
Working with Mara was a delight. She beautifully & stylishly redesigned an eternity ring for me into a classic piece to best showcase the stones
The world and our shared environment are under great stress. The jewellery industry has contributed in part to the current state of affairs.
Mara Hotung has spent time and energy sourcing responsible and ethical gem dealers and manufacturers who care about our planet. Mara personally vets her suppliers and manufacturers to ensure that the gems and materials used in her designs are responsibly sourced.
Mara also advocates recycling and reusing jewellery to reduce waste. It is important that our industry be transparent, and contributes meaningfully to efforts to look after our planet. It’s also important to give back.
Mara Hotung, Gem Voyager has appeared in various publications.
Proud to have achieved the prestigious LUX Fine Jewellery Of The Year 2017. The Global Excellence Awards honours the contributions of the very best of those within the industry whose aim is above and beyond the competition. Credited for demonstrating excellence within their chosen field.