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Essence Labs

Anatomical jewelry inspired by duckling bones in Beijing's 798 Art District

by Alessandro De Toni in Design on 21 August 2012

Beijing's 798 Art District has made a mainstream shift in recent years with coffee shops, souvenir stores, flocks of tourists and the usual weekend deploy of an arsenal of digital cameras. 798 has become the center of lighthearted art entertainment, but it still preserves some hidden pearls of creativity like Essence Labs. Opened in 2009 by young designers Yin Xiangkun and Meng Dan, Essence Labs is a jewelry boutique featuring handmade jewelry resembling—and often made from—animal body parts.

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Yin, who's now 25, developed a passion for animal anatomy as a child, after the death of his duckling. After the family buried their pet, Yin, still in mourning, decided to dig it up. Though surprised to see only bones, he was not scared, but rather, saw a kind of eternal beauty in the duck's remains.

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In the following years Yin went to school and learned about corrosion and sterilization processes, and the idea of the skeleton would became a core concept of his creations—to him, bones are not the remains of death but the beauty of the essence, the eternal proof of physical existence.

In that spirit, his work encompasses bones and whole skeletons of fish, birds and other small animals combined with silver and precious stones in unique creature figures, artwork and jewelry.

The signature bone-shaped silver ring sells for 399 Yuan ($63), with limited-edition items priced at up to 19,000 Yuan ($2,990). Essence Labs jewelry is also available at BNC in Sanlitun North Village and UCCA@ART.BOOKS in 798.

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