BCU School of Jewellery student wins Gem-A Gem Empathy Award with coral and diamond ring design

01 Sep 2019

The Gem-A Gem Empathy Award, in association with IJL, is presented for the best use of a precious coral cabochon.

IJL and Gem-A are delighted to announce that IJL visitor and BCU School of Jewellery student designer Bingjie Zhao has won the annual Gem Empathy Award for her Trawling ring design.

Zhao studied for a BA in Jewellery and Objects at BCU School of Jewellery and successfully completed the Gem-A Gemmology Foundation course. She will now continue her studies on the School of Jewellery’s Design for Industry course to further her skills.

The long-standing Gem Empathy Award – organised by Gem-A (the Gemmological Association of Great Britain) and hosted by IJL – gives exhibitors and, for the first time in 2019, visitors to International Jewellery London (IJL) the chance to win a specially-selected gemstone.

This year, the Gem Empathy Award was given to the best bespoke jewellery design created for a 12.9 carat precious coral cabochon. Through the competition, Gem-A has sought to highlight the many misconceptions about the use of coral in contemporary jewellery design and explain the many sustainability procedures and laws in place for precious coral.

Alan Hart FGA, CEO, Gem-A: "This competition is all about encouraging IJL attendees to take new and creative approaches to using gemstones. We were incredibly impressed by the standard of this year's entries from across the complete spectrum of IJL visitors and exhibitors, including individuals with and without jewellery design experience. I would like to personally congratulate all the individuals who were shortlisted and our winner, Bingjie Zhao, who will now be able to bring her 'Trawling' ring to life using this year's Gem Empathy gemstone - a 12.9ct precious coral cabochon."

Through her ‘Trawling’ design, Zhao acknowledges the challenges that face common coral, especially pollution, climate change, trawling and overfishing, which lead to vast levels of coral bleaching, stock depletion and damage to sea life. Due to this, it is even more vital to advocate for the sustainable sourcing of precious corals, like this cabochon, which live in a different ecosystem to endangered coral reefs.

Bingjie Zhao, Gem Empathy Winner 2019, said about her winning design: “I chose the shape of fish nets and the texture of ropes as elements that represent trawling. I want to raise awareness of trawling problems through this piece of jewellery as well as reference the sustainable source of this precious coral.”

Zhao’s winning design was chosen from a shortlist of finalists, including Wan-Yi Lin, Eli Zhang, Cathie Osborne and Ioannis Chatzipanagiotou. Her concept design includes the coral cabochon set in 18ct yellow gold with 20 small stones and a single pearl cabochon.

This year’s Gem Empathy Award judges were Ruth Faulkner, Editor, Retail Jeweller; Liza Urla, Jewellery Advisor & Founder, Gemologue; Alan Hart FGA, CEO, Gem-A.

Zhao was announced at this year’s Gem Empathy Award winner at IJL 2019 on Sunday 1 September on the Gem-A stand. As the winner, she will now receive the coral cabochon and a contribution to bring her piece to life. She will also feature in a future edition of Gem-A’s Gems&Jewellery magazine.

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