DESIGNER PROFILE: Sungwoo Hong’s Venus Hairpin

About the Artist:

At Green Lake Jewelry Works, ‘Eric’ Sungwoo Hong is a skillful jeweler, setting the smallest of gemstones with steady hands and confident mastery. He recently represented Green Lake at the 2012 Chicago Smart Jewelry Show Bench Pressure Challenge – a national competition that gathers a select few of the most seasoned and capable jewelers in the country. Hong began as a jeweler in his home country of Korea before attending the Art Institute of Seattle, where he gained an expertise in graphic and industrial design that he’s been putting to use at Green Lake since 2005. When he’s not at the jeweler’s bench, his time is often filled with a mix of graphic design and photography projects.



Strangely beautiful, Hong’s ‘Venus Hairpin’ is 33 dwt of mirror-finished palladium (1.66 ounces), that snap out from styled locks, and is expertly detailed with 171 micro paved natural rubies.

This piece was entered into perhaps the largest design contest of its kind, put on by Palladium, where jewelry designers were challenged to create big, bold pieces out this noble metal that would really ‘pop.’ Sungwoo endeavored to create something as functional as it would be beautiful – and the result was this handmade hairpin, which is indeed a functional tool in keeping one’s hair up.

How it was Made:

  • From initial sketches and renderings of his vision for a flytrap-like ‘bud,’ Hong started out by annealing the thickest gauge of palladium stock wire – shaping it into a gradual curve with the application of high heat.
  • By using a hard resin pitch to shape the bar, and filing edges down at his bench, Hong was able to take the square shape and turn it into a smooth, curvy taper.
  • With the stem shape completed, it was notched up at the top to accommodate the eventual ‘bud.’ The designer cleverly fashioned his unique shape of the bud by printing a template out on a standard laser jet and applied it to a 22 gauge sheet of palladium. The ink template was adhered to the sheet stock by simply pouring acetone over it, giving Hong a perfect guide.
  • The organic flair on the bud was achieved within a few hours by employing a dapping punch in the front of the Green Lake workshop.
  • Once it took shape, the piece was much larger and more awkward than his bench could accommodate – as it was typically devoted to bridal jewelry. The jeweler had to fashion his own holder, which took a bit more real estate than his standard bench pin, but it worked!
  • Using a divider, Hong carefully scribed his destinations for rubies, carefully marking each intersection. In drilling holes and cutting the seats for each ruby, Hong employed a small round burr to make each opening slightly smaller than its corresponding gemstone, ensuring that plenty of metal for the final setting would be available.
  • As naturally colored gemstones can be notoriously dissimilar in exact sizing, the designer took special care in his selection to confirm a proper fit.
  • The girdle on rubies – that is the edges along their sides – are also predictably thicker than that of a diamond, making small scale bead-setting that much more hairy in terms of leaving enough metal to cover the edge of each gemstone.
  • The way the designer approached fabricating this piece meant he would have to eventually cover all the rubies with the top petal of the bud – but applying high heat (as in soldering) would damage the rubies. What’s more, while a quick laser weld might hold on smaller pieces ( and in other noble metals), the designer wanted to secure his larger palladium piece by connecting the stem to head with rivets. Though one rivet was place horizontally and another vertically, the finished product looks seamless.
  • While palladium may be considered to be a ‘stickier’ metal than its platinum brother (and is therefore more difficult to polish), Hong used both sandpaper and a combination of polishing compounds to get this perfect, mirror finish.

To see all the pieces in palladium from other Green Lake designers, check out this special gallery  – and check back weekly for articles like these, where we divulge how these things of beauty were created!