The chairwoman of Dreamodels, Deborah Valdez-Hung, owns one of Asia’s top modelling agencies and has a penchant for jewellery with a regal finish.
“Everybody who knows me knows I love tiaras. I just feel beautiful when I wear them,” says the Mexican-born, Hong Kong and Macau-based businesswoman and socialite. A favourite is a bespoke Dolce & Gabbana creation. “When I use a piece of jewellery, it makes me feel royal. Even if I wear a T-shirt and put on a diamond ring, I just feel completely different. It’s the power of the stone. In fact, I think I like stones more than the design.”
Valdez-Hung immerses herself in commissioning uniquely designed jewellery and does not enjoy shopping at boutiques. The only exception is when she travels and may pick up some gold or a tiny bracelet whose design has caught her eye and of course, some stones.
Her birthstone is garnet but she has a special fondness for white diamonds. She admires Victoire de Castellane’s pieces for Dior but doesn’t usually go for colourful jewellery unless it includes white diamonds or gemstones that are mixed colourfully together. “It has to be really creative and a very beautiful setting for me to be attracted to a colourful piece. You can never go wrong with a white diamond; I think they are just so glamorous,” she says.
She turns to her Graff necklaces for red carpet impact but there is nothing to stop Valdez-Hung picking from whichever big house she wishes to for events like this year’s Cannes Film Festival’s de Grisogono party at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc and amfAR’s Cinema Against Aids Gala.
Valdez-Hung’s fascination with jewellery started when she was just a young girl. Her father would buy huge fake crystal jewellery rings for her that she would wear on every finger. Her mother wore a lot of gold jewellery; a more conservative approach in line with her hometown of Hermosillo, in the north of Mexico. “In Mexico, with the North American influence, you cannot wear too much jewellery,” explains Valdez-Hung. While she appreciates Mexican jewellery, it is India that has become of particular interest to her, after first visiting the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra three years ago. She has since been to India a few times. “I am amazed by Indian jewellery and how much passion and effort women used to — and even now — put into adornment.” She also likes its workmanship and how Indian jewellers combine different materials.
She mentions cheekily that she never expected to have a husband that would give her so much jewellery and reveals that the jewellery they design as a couple feature shared personal motifs or meanings. Compared to her husband, Stephen Hung, the flamboyant Chinese property power player, Valdez-Hung is the more restrained dresser.
Valdez-Hung’s jewellery pieces all have their place at home or on the road. Perhaps that’s why she’s very quick with jewellery decisions when she’s preparing for an event. Clothing can take more time. “I’m very difficult. I want everything to be perfect and I am very specific about it. I need to feel good in the clothing and it has to suit my body. I must feel that it was meant to be mine. With jewellery, I need to feel that I am using the pieces and not the other way round.”
A frequent guest at the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires, she likens her experiences there as being in a candy store. However, she doesn’t believe Parisians embrace dressing up in jewellery quite the way her adopted home does. Valdez-Hung, who has a background in Civil Law, arrived in Hong Kong in 2010 and she attributes the city with boosting her joyful expression of big and dynamic jewellery. She is at her most experimental with her style when she is there: “I’m not shy at all but Hong Kong has made me bolder. I always say that Hong Kong people really enjoy themselves and what they have. They don’t have to hide it in the safe…people in Hong Kong really love jewellery. I’m not the only one!” she says.
Read more from this series of jewellery collectors: