Zolima CityMag: How Yim Tom’s atelier is rediscovering the heart of Chinese jewellery


From Confucius to Contemporary: The Jade Journey of Yim Tom

By Edith Terry

On a rainy early April evening in Hong Kong’s nightlife district, a determined band of collectors and connoisseurs pushes through the cocktail crowds to a basement bar with low lighting and a hidden entrance, Lan Kwai Lau. Piercing the gloom with her smile and energetic presence is Yim Tom, head of the eponymous jewellery atelier Yim Tom Jewels for the Journey, clad in flamingo-like tropical pastels and a riveting amber tiger pendant embellished with garnet druze, a coating of fine crystals.

The audience settles back to listen. Orientations, a high-brow publication on Asian art, has asked Tom to talk about the rather staid topic of “The Art of Dress: Antiques and Contemporary Fashion.” In Tom’s hands, the subject is anything but academic. Whatever her audience may have expected, she gives them vintage Yim Tom – erudite and energetic, flamboyant yet meticulous. Racing through her slides, the talk morphs into a breathless account of her love affair with China’s past and its impact on her design philosophy. Nobody minds.

Layering Hollywood glamour with Chinese metaphysics, Tom is a cultural mosaic in her own right. As a teenager in Miami, she learned about the concept of yin and yang, how seemingly opposite forces can be complementary, and the search for immortality embodied in Chinese jade. “A veil lifted from my eyes,” she says. Thus began a journey that has included stints in a major auction house as well as marketing for the high-intensity TV sales network, QVC, where she became the best-known jade expert to its hundreds of thousands of viewers through her show, “Chinese Jade with Yim Tom,” and finally to her own atelier making bespoke jewellery.

Jade, both contemporary and antique, is a major element in Tom’s craft, as well as her design philosophy. She says it represents all the spiritual qualities most important to Chinese civilisation – the glue that held the culture together for thousands of years, along with the ideographic writing system. One of the most difficult of materials due to its hardness, with its gleaming lustre and range of colours, jade came to represent aspirations for permanence and protection across many cultures.


Textiles and clothing have traditionally been signifiers of social status and power in China, with varying adornments and colour gradations marking their bearer’s proximity to the Emperor. Once a major genre of decorative and functional art, wearable antiques rarely enjoy the limelight in contemporary society. 

Born in Beijing and raised in Miami, Yim Tom moved to Hong Kong in 1990, to establish Treasure East Antiques, specialising in Chinese works of art and jadeite jewellery. Tom does not consider herself a jewellery designer but, rather, a temporary custodian of gems and precious materials. Her decorative accessories reflect Asian aesthetics, incorporating antique elements such as jade and glass beads in contemporary settings. For the talk, she will share her observations on the roles gemstones served in history, as indicators of wealth, sources for creative stimulus to precious commodity. 

English. RSVP to info@asianarthk.com

Time: 6:30pm - 7:30pm

Location: Lan Kwai Lau
G/F, No. 2-3, Lan Kwai Fong, Central

Contact: info@asianarthk.com

Free admission