Denny Wong gets inspiration for his jewelry designs everywhere.
"I could find inspiration for a piece of jewelry anywhere,” said Wong, owner of Wong Designs. "Really, it could be anywhere. Nature, the sea life, flowers, or sometimes a colored gemstone. It could be all kinds of different things, even wallpaper, carpet, wind chimes. I get my inspiration from what attracts my eye.”
He did not start out as a jeweler.
"I wanted to be a marine biologist or something like that, but then my mom told me there was an opening at a jewelry factory, so I tried it and that’s how I got started,” he said. "When I was young I Ioved arts and crafts, woodworking and that sort of thing, but when I got into the jewelry business I really liked it. It’s like a hobby, except I get paid for it.”
"At the time I got into the business I was about 20. That was in 1980. At that time we did a lot of trade work for jewelry stores in Honolulu, and I started my own line of jewelry in 1990.”
Wong, who grew up in Hong Kong but moved to Honolulu, Hawaii when he was 18, has grown Wong Designs into an internationally recognized jewelry brand, with a presence in the US and abroad. His work is now a mainstay of fine stores throughout the states: Hawaii, California, the eastern seaboard, even Alaska.
Wong is a frequent visitor to Alaska. His first customer was from Homer, and then he decided to come up to Alaska more frequently "and I got to know the cruise ships and I went to the various ports, Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, Sitka, Homer, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and as a result my work is widely available in Alaska, in addition to my home state of Hawaii.”
His philosophy of jewelry creation is reflected in his tagline: "Inspired by Nature. Perfected by Craftsmanship.”
It’s the craftsmanship and his interest in marine life that becomes readily apparent when you inspect Wong’s jewelry. You can tell what fine jewelry is by inspecting it, Wong said.
"Look for the finish,” he recommended. "Look at the front and the back. Sometimes you look at the front and it looks nice but in the back it doesn’t look as good. If it looks good on both sides, you know you have a piece of fine jewelry.”
Fine jewelry is the only kind Wong creates and crafts, and he is meticulous about his creations as he designs and crafts his fine jewelry.
"There are a few ways we do it,” he said. "We see sea life or flowers and we carve from a piece of wax and then we do casting. We cast it into silver and then with that we finish it and make a rubber mold and with the rubber mold we cast it into gold or whatever material we decide to use. Our business is very detail-oriented. We use the best quality gemstones, diamonds and other designs, and the workmanship is impeccable. We’re very proud of it.”
His biggest sellers?
"Flowers and sea life,” he said. "We do a lot of Hawaii nature-type things, sea life and those sorts of things. I’m the regional director of the Tropical Memory Collection, which is very popular in Hawaii.”
The process of creating the jewelry that really is art in its own way is detailed. He designs prototypes, and then uses various materials to make the art happen.
"We usually start out with silver because it’s less expensive and use it as a prototype,” Wong said. "Sometimes I buy a gemstone and we design around the gemstone. These are one-of-a-kind pieces. From the design we sketch it and fabricate it.”
His work recently won the prestigious JCK Award for "best color gemstone under $10,000.”
If you take a look at his jewelry, you can see the influence of nature. The Denny Wong gold plumeria pendant, the white gold plumeria pendant with diamonds and the white gold plumeria pendant with blue diamond are items that are particularly popular. But the collection also offers designs of other flowers such as hibiscus. Rings and earrings are also available.
While Wong and his staff create beautiful, award-winning jewelry, he continues to seek new ideas for new pieces.
"Inspiration could be anywhere,” he said. "Nature, sea life, the flowers. I find inspiration everywhere.”