The symbolic nature of Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t just start or stop with the fact that it’s the first film to feature an entirely Asian or Asian American cast in more than 25 years. Even something as seemingly small as Eleanor Young’s emerald engagement ring holds a whole lot of meaning behind its deceptively simple appearance.
“The ring shows a sign of respect and acknowledgment,” director Jon M. Chu tells The Knot. “The love and the strength and the sacrifice. At the end of the day, [the ring] is an affirmation of self-worth.”
Mary E. Vogt, the costume designer for the lavish film, says Chu always envisioned an emerald ring for Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) from the get-go, so the story of how the actual piece for the film came to be is a doozy. “Jon Chu, our director, who is fantastic, always said that he saw emerald as Eleanor’s color,” Vogt reflects. “He really felt that it was a very regal color, a very strong color, that it was just something that he associated with Eleanor, that green. And so he thought she should have a green engagement ring.”
As it turns out, the emerald engagement ring that Yeoh ended up wearing in the film, the very one that held such importance in Chu’s eyes, was her very own ring—and one that she had designed herself, at that. According to Vogt, Chu originally imagined a ring modeled after an engagement ring that John F. Kennedy had designed for Jackie Kennedy.
“He loves that ring,” Vogt says. “So the art department got involved with designing this ring, and they made one that was very similar to the JFK-designed ring. But Michelle Yeoh loves simplicity, and she said, ‘Well, you know, I love the idea of emerald. What about this ring?’ And she personally had her engagement ring that she’d designed—and it was also emerald! So we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s perfect.’ So the ring you see in the movie is actually Michelle’s.”
The ring, which features a large main emerald in the center, is a “very high quality stone,” Vogt says. “Emeralds can have a lot of cracks in them, a lot of flaws, but this one was really a flawless emerald, which is hard to find. It’s very classic. It looks like something Cartier could have designed in the 20s.”
Yeoh herself was surprised that the film ultimately ended up featuring her personal bauble, but she was happy to lend her dazzler to the flick.
“The ring in the movie, it belonged to me, yes,” she tells The Knot. “It was very important for it to be real. And Eleanor was a character who knew what she wore had to be flawless. Her [own] mother-in-law did not approve and did not give her the family ring at the end of the day… so that ring had to be very special.”
Adds Chu, “The ring is really to say and to recognize her sacrifice for someone that she loves, and that she’s capable of it.”
—With reporting by Esther Lee.