By Irina Missiuro
Chi Huynh of Galatea in San Dimas, California, is not interested in creating jewelry that resembles anything on the market. His sole focus is originality—a goal that presupposes innovation, a challenge he welcomes gladly. A holder of numerous patents, Huynh admits to having a unique process of invention. “I follow my instinct and get on a journey that usually ends up in a place I didn’t anticipate,” he says. To illustrate, he explains that, when he started researching free energy 10 years ago, he didn’t know he would stumble on a concept as innovative as the one that has become the foundation of Blossom—his newest collection.
During his years of research, Huynh discovered that he could “program” nitinol, a nickel-titanium alloy that features two unique properties: shape memory and superelasticity. Because of its crystal lattice structure, the alloy can be deformed but then revert to a specific shape when heat is applied. Huynh found that he could train the metal to do what he wanted by repeatedly heating and cooling it.
To showcase the abilities of this alloy, Huynh decided to create a ring that evoked a dandelion. His rendition, the Blossom Ring, features opening and closing petals—32 metal wires arranged in four rows and topped with white freshwater pearls. At room temperature, the flower holds an in-between status. When the temperature rises, the petals open.
To bring his concept to life, he began training the 0.4 mm wire to perform the two functions. “I trained the wire with fire before I cut it into the lengths I needed,” he says. “I had to plan ahead.” First, he taught the wire to remember its shape at 115°F by bending each one into a curve, holding it in position, and heating it to 970°F for about 15 minutes. “We train it at 970°F to go one way, but to train it the other way, you have to do the opposite. Repetition is key.” He repeated the process more than 50 times, taking the metal from hot to cold to train it to go both ways. Once he cooled the wire with a freeze can, that position remained in its memory.
With his wire petals trained, it was time to begin building the ring. To attach the wires to the ring’s center 13 mm Tahitian pearl, he drilled eight sets of 0.5 mm holes in four rows around the pearl. “Each hole is different,” he says. “I drilled the pearl at the angle that I wanted each petal to open, giving the flower an organic look.”
After securing the wires within the pearl, and repeatedly trimming them the way one would a bonsai tree to ensure that the wires looked uniform when closed, Huynh needed to attach the pearls to the tops of the petals. He worked with three sizes of pearls—2 mm, 2.5 mm, and 3 mm, placing the smallest pearls on the inside and the largest ones on the outside. After notching the end of each wire tip, he secured the pearls onto the wires using an optical glue.
Creating the flower stem that would connect the pearl blossom to the ring shank was a critical part of the design’s success. Because he wanted to ensure that the flower was positioned at the webbed space between two fingers for maximum comfort, Huynh bent wax around his finger to determine the best position and to ensure that the flower wouldn’t fall to the left or the right. Once he was happy, he recreated the wax model in CAD, growing a 3-D model of the ring that he then cast in 14k yellow gold. To complete his vision of a “sparkly and fancy” ring, Huynh set 26 diamonds (0.7 ctw) along the shank. Not wanting to distract from his blossoming flower, he purposely kept the rest of the ring design simple, subtly hinting at a flower stem. “This is what artists do,” he says. “We tell a lie to tell the true essence of thing.”