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Jewellery & Metal (MA)

Yu (Cyan) Chen

Yu Chen (Cyan Chen) is a contemporary jewellery designer living in China. She completed a BA in Product Design at Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology and an MA in Jewellery and Metal at Royal College of Art. 

Cyan is deeply committed to the culture of her generation and to using jewellery as a means to record and comment on contemporary life experiences.

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Jewellery & Metal (MA)

Cyan’s project is mainly about social status, and value in life and materials in relation to jewellery. The discussion of price and value plays a vital role in her material selection and experiments.

Her inspiration comes from three stories about social status and value in life. In her view, social status cannot be the only criteria for measuring value in life. Today, social status is demonstrated through consumerism. Consumers become attached to things printed with logos, such as paper bags, packing boxes, even price tags. For some, These low-priced accessories seem to have a special value. Understanding this made Cyan begin to challenge the consumerist concept of price and think about the concept of value instead.

Is there any difference between buying a product and buying a price tag? Cyan chose to explore this notion by showing these price tags. A price tag indicating something is real gold satisfies the wearer's need to show status and wealth in terms of both value and price. The wearers can use these price tags on any ordinary clothes to pretend and demonstrate their wealth. She tagged ‘18k gold’ on the surface of her pieces to imply the price of the material. This also brings a sense of absurdity.

In the series Do You Really Want It?, Cyan tries to challenge the audience to consider: which is more important, the material price or artistic value? People keep and carry bags with logos to imply that they have the capacity to consume luxury goods. In other words, shopping bags and products have the same function. The value of paper is higher than the price of paper. From paper bags to shopping bags, the value and price of the brand is more than that of the paper. For example, Tiffany shopping bags are full of commercial elements. Using the traditional Chinese paper-making technique, the shopping bag becomes paper pulp. Cyan’s work strips out the price and value of the brand, but retains the colour to indicate the source of the material. By reshaping the physical form, the value of classic jewellery design and the value of craft are given to paper. At the end, the price of paper is still cheap: do you really want it?

Social status is not the most important or valuable aspect of life. What is really valuable in life? Cyan’ believes the answer is – food. In the series Dongting Pearls, she chose rice as a material because, in China, rice has a thousand-year history of cultivation. The status of rice in Chinese food culture is like the central precious stone in jewellery. However, as the quality of life improves, hunger is no longer a problem. People start to waste food. She uses rice instead of gems to imitate the jewellery production process. After comparing the colour, wholeness, hardness and shape of different kinds of rice, she selects glutinous rice as a material. Using rice, Cyan imitates the process of selecting, measuring and sorting gems. Cyan uses rice that originates from the Dongting Lake. Set into the jewellery, the individual grains are as pure and white as pearls. Her actions enhancing the ‘preciousness’ of rice, (mostly overlooked by people today) is captured in a short film.

What is really important to value in life, for you?

Value Tags — Brooch
Value Tags — Accessory

Model: Jinghui Duan

Photo by: Cyan Chen


18K Gold
Do you really want it? — Ring
Do you really want it? — Brooch
Do you really want it? — Earrings, necklace
Do you really want it? — Bracelet, earring, brooch, ring

Model: Ziren Yi  

Photo by: Zhangbo Huan


Shopping bag (paper, thread, ribbon), glue
Video: Dongting Pearls — Director: Cyan Chen Photographer: Zhangbo Huan Music in this video - Song: Experience Artist: Ludovico Einaudi — DISCLAIMER* NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. I DO NOT OWN THE RIGHTS TO MUSIC IN THIS VIDEO. I DO NOT MONETIZE THIS VIDEO. If you own copyright to this music please contact me.
Dongting Pearls — Bracelet, rings
Dongting Pearls — Bracelet, rings
Dongting Pearls — Necklace, brooch, ring
Brooch (bracelet)

Model: Weiyu Li

Photo by: Zhangbo Huan


Glutinous rice, silver