Geeks love to wear their hearts on their sleeve, and there’s no greater way than to show it through fashion and accessories, from superhero t-shirts and hoodies, sneakers from their favourite pop culture franchise, licensed watches featuring some of the biggest names in entertainment, to backpacks designed in a galaxy far far away.
Accessory-wise, they can straddle the line between being kitschy and trendily casual but for the most part, these streetwear may not be entirely appropriate for more formal events. In comes VectorGems, the award-winning jewellery design studio based in Singapore, and their range of jewellery for popular video games.
Founded in 2018 by China-born gemologist Cathy Que Liping who has been working in the game industry since 2006, the 3-year-old business was formed by game designers, concept artists, and 3D modellers who share both expertise in game development and a love for jewellery. Thus, VectorGems was founded to fill the niche of fine game-themed jewellery.
Recently, VectorGems rolled out a line of Genshin Impact Vision jewellery, which is based on miHoYo’s popular game, Genshin Impact. Genshin Impact Vision jewellery won the Platinum Award in the 2021 MUSE Creative Awards, an international competition for creative professionals organised by International Awards Associate.
The jewellery is based around the seven elements in the game’s world – Cryo, Dendro, Pyro, Hydro, Anemo, Electro, and Geo. And even with a cursory look at the jewellery, which consists of two pieces, the Anemo Vision and Geo Vision, it is obvious that Que’s game-themed jewellery pieces are the result of painstaking, intricate labour, and is more sophisticated in design compared to most other game-related merchandise. This is high-quality fine jewellery for chic gamers.
So what’s the difference between making traditional jewellery and game-themed jewellery?
“The prototyping process,” explains Que in an exclusive interview with Geek Culture.
“Because we use in-game characters’ props and weapons as the base design, they tend to have complicated and fancy shapes. Traditional fine jewellery has much simpler shapes,” Que said, “The games’ concept artists designed those props and weapons in software, but making them into wearable items is another thing.”
While accessories based on Genshin Impact‘s Visions can easily be found on Etsy stores and other online marketplaces, there are a few things that set VectorGems apart.
First, there is the quality, as VectorGems works with precious metal and natural gemstones. This is several times better in looks and quality than the more common resin used by most online crafts stores, especially with that unmistakable glint that natural gemstones boast, be it on pendants, earrings, or broaches. They are luxury items that catch attention in just the right way without clashing with everyday clothes, and won’t look out of place in more formal events.
Then there is the sheer attention to detail, where the type, colour, and size of the gemstones are carefully considered. Starting from the selection of the rough gemstones, each gemstone used in the jewellery pieces went through two months of experimentation and prototyping to get the desired outcome. This includes gem cutting, laser engraving, hand-carving, and lapidary in order to arrive at the finalised gemstone to be used in the jewellery. Que also describes the metal shaping trials as “using a game design process for jewellery design”, more specifically the game asset modelling process, which isn’t commonly adopted by traditional jewellers.
A lot of care is necessary in order to remain faithful to the in-game design while smoothing out elements to ensure that the jewellery is comfortably wearable. Another challenge in making in-game jewellery for the real world is their size.
“The [in-game designs] are sometimes so unrealistic,” Que said, pointing out how some jewellery just won’t be practical for wearing if the design is used wholesale, especially those with protruding sharp ends, “I don’t change the front-view shape. I will make changes to the side-view and back-view and also tweak the little details to make the jewellery safe to wear.”
This process is akin to translating fantasy into reality.
“We may have to make revisions to make the jewellery wearable,” Que explained, pointing to one of the Genshin Impact Vision jewellery pieces as an example.
“The Anemo, [the metal tip] is actually sharp in the game, so we had to make sure it’s blunt but still looks sharp. Otherwise, when you wear it, you could get stabbed by it!”
Finally, VectorGems’ Genshin Impact Vision jewellery is commissioned and thus authorised by miHoYo. This lends the jewellery an air of legitimacy beyond being an accessory version of fanfiction. Que first got the attention of miHoYo in March 2019, when she showcased her jewellery during Game Connection America 2019, which ran concurrently with Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco.
Talks began then to get Genshin Impact jewellery prototyped in late 2019, and it was only this year that the Genshin Impact Vision jewellery line started to be considered for retail. After the prototypes were completed in 2019, miHoYo invited Que to meet with their Genshin Impact team in Shanghai to further discuss the commercialisation of the jewellery, though she decided not to take them up on the offer, instead opting to maintain virtual correspondence with the team. Currently, the Genshin Impact Vision jewellery line is in the process of being planned for mass production and release.
“It can take less than one and a half months to prototype our in-house jewellery designs because it’s just me and my team,” Que stated, when asked how long it takes to design and make a set of jewellery, “and three months if the game developers work very closely [in proximity] with us.”
Not all of the jewellery will be available or made available for sale, Que notes, as she may not be able to afford the intellectual property (IP) license to sell them.
“Do you know, the license fee for World of Warcraft could be two million dollars?” she remarked, “There’s no way we can afford that!”
As such, in the case of larger IPs like Genshin Impact, Que has positioned herself as a luxury customisation service providing her expertise in gemstones and jewellery design for the companies behind those major IPs.
This means that Que isn’t sure when the Genshin Impact Vision jewellery will be made available for the fans and how much they will be going for, as those decisions are miHoYo’s to make. However, Que emphasised that affordability is an important consideration during the design process. As an avid gamer herself, she understands what price point will be comfortable for fans of the game. After all, with gamers, the games come before the accessories. Thus, each jewellery piece will have an affordable version. Browsing through VectorGems’ online catalogue, prices range from US$38.80 to US$1,999 depending on the jewellery’s design and material.
Que’s love for games and jewellery goes beyond purely business. During the interview, she took out a variety of game-themed jewellery that she, along with her team, designed and made based on games they like, such as Zen Koi 2, a casual game developed by Singaporean game developer LandShark Games, and Ulala: Idle Adventure, an idle massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by Chinese game developer So Funny. It even includes a pickaxe from Minecraft, which she delights in wearing herself.
“I already spent a few thousand dollars on Genshin Impact,” she said while laughing, “and I stayed up till 3 am playing Age of Empire IV this month. It’s so fun.”
Currently, VectorGems is in contact with Tencent in talks about a potential jewellery line based on the MOBA Honor of Kings.