Sara Jane Ho has learnt to be careful about the jewellery she wears. A keen believer in the principles of feng shui, a Chinese system for “harmonising” people and their environments to maximise good fortune, the entrepreneur has cautionary tales.
When on holiday with her father in India in 2007, Ms Ho, who is from Hong Kong and based in China, bought an oval sapphire and diamond ring. The sapphire — so dark it almost looked like onyx — did not leave her finger for the next month or two. “That year was already a very bad year for me because my mum had passed away but somehow within that period things got worse,” she says. She hated her job in investment banking in New York; her boyfriend broke up with her; she became depressed.
She lost the ring and soon after met an Indian man at a party who was wearing his own sapphire ring. “He said you have to be very careful with sapphires because of their energy . . . Whenever you wear a sapphire it brings a lot of change to your life, for better or for worse,” she says. She has not bought sapphires since.
The experience led her to consult the family’s feng shui master and she has taken the practice seriously since starting Institute Sarita, a “high-end boutique finishing school”, in Beijing in 2012. Her latest venture is Raya Living Omnimedia, an extension of the school that will provide video, TV and social media content aimed at China’s emerging middle class.
Gioielli, diamond and ruby bracelet (2017)
Feng shui tries to balance five elements — metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Ms Ho lacks the fire element, she says, and so she needs more red — or rubies — in her life to rebalance. It was after launching Institute Sarita that she started seriously buying fine jewellery for herself.
She treated herself to her diamond and ruby emerald-cut bracelet, which she designed with the family’s go-to jeweller in Hong Kong, Gioielli, to mark her first five years in business. It is the most expensive piece she has bought.
Gioielli, remounted vintage jade pendant (2017)
Ms Ho’s grandfather bought a green jade pendant for his wife at the state-run Friendship Store in Beijing, where initially only foreigners and diplomats could shop, in 1968. Last year, Ms Ho’s grandmother had the pendant remounted with white gold, onyx and diamonds by the family’s jeweller. She gave it to Ms Ho as a 30th birthday present. “It almost looks like a Buddha,” she says.
Chaumet, Bee My Love pearl and diamond earrings and necklace (c2015)
It was her mother who introduced “tomboy” Ms Ho to jewellery, starting her off with “preppy” pearl stud earrings when she went to school in the US. But Ms Ho has not worn pearls since and does not wear her Chaumet earrings and necklace, from a former partner. The pieces are not something she would have chosen. “But also, because it is so sentimental and it’s [from] a former relationship . . . I don’t want to expose it in some way,” she says. “It’s my most private piece.”
Diamond bracelet (date unknown)
When Ms Ho was 17 and finishing boarding school, her mother gave her an Art Deco-style bracelet of diamonds set in 18-carat white gold. “It’s simple in terms of colour but it’s very unique in terms of design,” says Ms Ho. Her mother died four years later; Ms Ho inherited her jewellery. “I still remember putting it on in front of her dressing table and thinking . . . the last skin it’s touched was the skin of my mother,” she says. Though she believes the energy in her mother’s jewellery will help and protect her, she does not like to buy antique pieces. “All my antiques in my house my feng shui master has cleansed because they bring in the energy from the previous owner,” she says.
Karen Hou, ruby and diamond ring (2012)
Ms Ho bought herself a “right-hand ring” to remind herself of her independence. Karen Hou, a Beijing-based designer, was one of her first students at Institute Sarita and they became friends. “I wanted to support her in some way and at the same time buy something for myself that was fun,” she says. Ms Ho feels a different energy when she wears red jewellery and, as she takes risks to expand her business, she pays attention to feng shui. She says: “There’s a phrase in China which is that first comes your life, your destiny; second comes your luck; and third comes feng shui.”
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