Chan was born in Fuzhou in 1956 and moved to Hong Kong at the age of 5. He left school when he was 13 in order to support his family. Chan became an apprentice sculptor three years later but by 1974 he had moved on to set up his own sculpting workshop. It was during this time that Chan moved on from working on Buddhist sculptures to creating jewellery pieces.
Chan got his first break while working in Macau when Yih Shun Lin, a Taiwanese art collector, commissioned him to create a stupa for the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center in Kaohsiung. He was the first contemporary jeweller to hold a solo exhibition at the Capital Museum in Beijing and the first Asian jeweller to exhibit work at the Biennale de Paris. One of his noted pieces, the Now and Always pendant, features a distinctive facial image inspired by the many-faced goddesses of Horae within an aquamarine gemstone. His necklace Great Wall, made of diamond and jadeite, sold for $73.5 million in 2012.
In 1987, he devised a method of carving designs within a gemstone. The technique uses cameos and intaglios to create a lifelike image. That image is then reflected within the gem to create a three-dimensional effect. A modified dentist's drill is used to make small detailed changes on the stone. Most of the designs are made under water to dissipate the heat generated by the high powered drill, to prevent damage to the material.
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