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Kai by Nicola

Beautiful, unique and timeless are some of the words that I would use to describe the handcrafted jewellery pieces by talented designer and goldsmith Nicola Chong.  I met Nicola at Saudade, a beautiful boutique on Dundas Street West that carries her line, Kai.  Here I was able to talk to her more about her creative process and discuss the time, love and craftsmanship that goes into making every single piece.  

C:  How long have you been creating jewellery and how did you initially start/decide that you wanted to create jewellery?
N:  I started making jewellery when I was a young teenager, with some stretchy bead cord, wire, Swarovski crystals and glass beads.  I have always loved material arts, but it wasn’t until I had finished my undergrad at Queen’s that I decided to return to being more creative in how I live my life. That’s when I rediscovered that I actually love to work with my hands. I am terrible at drawing and painting, so making jewellery ended up being the perfect fit. I took an introductory night course at George Brown’s Casa Loma campus and never looked back.

C:  What materials and metals do you use for your creations?
N:  I love to work with yellow gold. Having trained as a goldsmith as well as a jewellery designer, it’s a lovely material to work with. Silver is much more accessible to people and not everyone likes the colour of gold, so silver is my material of choice for a small collection. It is very reasonably priced and just as easy to work with.  Of course, everything I make in silver can also be made in gold and I can even add some diamonds for that extra sparkle.  Gemstones of choice range from clear Herkimer diamonds (a type of quartz crystal), to deep blue lapis lazuli, to sapphires in all colours of the rainbow, to rough diamonds, champagne diamonds and salt and pepper diamonds – which I intend to create a wedding jewellery line with this spring.

Image via Kai by Nicola
C:  How long does it take to create your pieces?  Please briefly describe the process.
N:  Each piece is special in that every single one is handmade by me. No two pieces in the open geo collection are exactly the same, as I freestyle it all. There would be multiple rings with five sides, for example, but the angles and proportions aren’t made by calculation. That’s what gives the collection a very organic and effortless feeling. Custom work is an entirely different process. It takes between 4-8 weeks for production and can use a variety of jewellery making techniques – from wax carving and casting in gold, to CAD (Computer Aided Design) and 3D printing, to total hand fabrication and diamond setting. 

C:  Where you draw your inspiration from?
N:  I draw inspiration from literally everywhere! On top of loving jewellery of many different aesthetics, I really appreciate good craftsmanship and great silhouettes. I can be inspired from an interesting piece of furniture, to handmade ceramics, to the textures of nature along the ocean. The world is full of all sorts of shapes, textures, forms, and silhouettes. The inspiration is endless. The difficulty is in finding your aesthetic and translating what you love and find beautiful into the physical materials, and to do that really really well.

Image via Kai by Nicola
C:  Where can one purchase your jewellery?
N:  I currently sell my jewellery at Made You Look, on Queen St. West in Parkdale. That’s actually the studio that I work out of as well as sell my work at. It’s an open jewellery studio as well as a storefront/gallery. And I also have my full open geo collection at Saudade, a beautiful lifestyle store on Dundas St. West in Little Portugal. Aside from those places, clients usually contact me personally for custom work such as re-designing their heirloom jewellery or custom wedding and engagement pieces.

Nicola says that her "plans for 2016 are simply to create more!"  She is working on a jewellery line for wedding and engagement that she describes as "alternative bridal, for the people out there who are bored with mall wedding jewellery and are looking for something more unique, but still precious.  So stay tuned!"

Image via Kai by Nicola
For more information please visit the Kai by Nicola website.  Her jewellery is available at Saudade (1191 Dundas Street West., Toronto) and Made You Look (1338 Queen Street West., Toronto).

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