The past brought to the present
One of the objects that can best evoke the story of a place is its currency – a snapshot of a particular place in a particular time – who was the ruler, what was the historical background, what inspired the design of the coin, what materials were used and why.
Money had always been the driving force of Hong Kong, the financial imperative is what makes Hong Kong the place it is today: in the 19th century it used to be a small rocky island that was used as an opium smuggling base, in the 21st century it is a leading international finance centre.
During the mid 1800s Hong Kong was caught between two dominant imperial powers which themselves were facing the cusp of change. The defeat in 1842 by the British forces in the First Opium War marked the beginning of a long decline of the Chinese Qing Dynasty. Meanwhile the British went on to become the foremost global power. At the height of the British Empire in 1922, it ruled over almost a quarter of the world’s population.
Over 150 years on, on 30th June 1997, the British chapter of Hong Kong’s history closed when Prince Charles and Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong boarded the HMY Brittania to sail out of Victoria Harbour.
China on the other hand had managed to leave behind decades of revolution and war. Far reaching political and economic reforms which started in the 1970s brought about a new economic might and confidence which would place it as a new world superpower in the 21st century.
Old empires decline and die, new empires emerge in their place. At the heart of all empire building is the central driving force of trade and of money. That is why the coins of Hong Kong are one of the best instruments for telling its story. The coins would have been a living part of its history, handled by its people on a daily basis, and used through the generations. By turning them into jewellery, we have brought these historical objects back to life again and given it a new chapter in its own history.