Thursday, December 31, 2009

an accidental shot

Spent the whole day shooting photos for next year's e-commerce website. Well, at least until the sun went down and the weather threatened to rain. As part of the sorting out process, I put the flower necklaces that I had already shot in one of the boxes. Without arranging them in any particular order, they looked so pretty together; thus I snapped a random picture of it. Alas though, my photography skills still leaves very much to be desired.

Btw, the pictures that I take are never photoshopped. I'd like to say that it's part of a purist philosophy associated with the label's artisanal themes, but the simiple truth is, I don't know how.

On that confession, a very lovely 2010 to all of you. May it be full of meaning, warmth and joy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

For love of bespoke work and artisanal craftsmanship

There are times whereby I'd put some songs on for easy listening. Songs that get my head bopping to the beats or move me on an emotional level; I feel happier listening to them. However, I don’t understand the story behind the singer/songwriter’s inspirations for the piece nor do I have an awareness for the complex processes involved in the making of it. I have no urge to and am content with a simple appreciation of the song and the emotions it evokes.

For many people, jewellery is like that – an accessory to be admired and desired. No more, no less. And that’s fine – there are many levels to appreciating a piece and as a designer, I’m just grateful to have someone like my aesthetic.

Once in long while though, I meet some people who truly understand what your aims were when you conceived of the brand. And when that happens, there is a deep gratification of being understood and appreciated on that kind of level.

One of my clients wrote this awhile back, and I thought I’d share it. It was in the context of a discussion about today's culture of disposable and ready-to-wear everything; that there was no understanding or appreciation of bespoke work or old artisanal craftsmanship. While there was nothing inherently wrong with that and it was an inevitable consequence of the industrial age and people’s changing consumption patterns, she shared her own thoughts about old luxury that touched me greatly.

“True luxury is when you know the designer, you understand his or her aesthetic, you understand the creative process that went into each piece, and you worked with the designer to create something exclusively for you (even if it borrows from other aesthetic strands), and because you trust the designer and their artisans, you trust the quality of what you have in your hand, that it was laboriously created by someone (not a machine) who was concentrating on that particular piece. For you.”

Inbound Asia Press article

Inbound Asia
December 2009/January 2010

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Free-form gems in ready-to-wear

Free-form aquamarine chunks wrapped in black rhodium vermeil and further embellished with blue-green sapphires and amethysts.

Available at Colette @ The Forum, Singapore.

For more information, please e-mail us at

JP, my mentor, has been in the jewellery industry for over 34 years. He's worked as a bench jeweller, traded gems, owned his own production factory and has basically been in virtually aspect of the jewellery industry.

One of the things he constantly berates me for, in my journey of building a high-end artisanal brand, is the fact that I keep on using free-form gems. Stones that were cut according to the lapidary artisan's whim and fancy and didn't follow any callibrated sizing. "Yilin", he tells me in a heavy French accent, "this is not acceptable in a ready-to-wear collection."

He makes sense of course, as the lack of replicability is untenable in the long run when the label expands its ready-to-wear line in the near future. However, in the meantime, I'm going to do these pieces as and when I can. In future, these stones will have to be reserved solely for bespoke orders.

Friday, December 18, 2009

how do we dress up a diamond solitaire?

The thing about a diamond is that because of its white colour and extremely high luster, it usually gives the impression that it's a lot bigger than it really is. Based on my own anecdotal observations of people's reactions, a 1.0ct usually results in the same bling effect as a 3.0ct blue sapphire (the next in line for the well-known luxe gemstones). Thus, because of this, as well as the extremely high price of white diamond solitaires, most of my peers and clients tend to cap their diamond purchases between 1-2cts.

However, 1-2 cts in the gemstone world is pretty small in the objective scheme of things and D and I were cognisant of this when we were designing the ring-setting for her engagement diamond - a 1.17 ct radiant-cut diamond. On one hand, both of us were adamant that we didn't want one of those looks remininscent of pre-cast rings whereby the diamond was simply plopped into a four to six prong claw setting that's ubiquitous today. On the other hand, we also wanted to stay clear away from cluttering the diamond such that it was "over-flowered".

Thus, we had to get creative. Because D and I were huge fans of the organic and asymmetical aesthetic, we deliberately chose a matte, sandblasted irregular shank that was meant to mimic a wooden branch. The craftsman was an absolute genius - he even went as far to include the tiny little "scars" that we see in real branches, infusing a much more authentic look to it.

Separately, we kept the claw setting clean - no side diamonds that people choose to do to make the stone look bigger. Instead, we opted for a vintage look that we achieved with diamond prongs with milgrain etchings. And finally, for added design effect, we added two more diamonds on the side, again set in a bezel with milgrain bordering. :)

I e-mailed M, her fiance, to ask what he wanted to engrave on the inside of the shank. A personal inside joke of a phrase was chosen - "I'm sorry please thank you very many". The context to this, shared with me by D, was that M's mother tongue doesn't really have an equivalent of "please". Thus, there was a tendency to say things like "pass the salt" to which D would ask "and what is the magic word?". M's cheeky reply would then be "I'm sorry please thank you very many." I have to say that I loved the message, especially after hearing the context to it. It was clearly saying "I love you" but in the form of an inside joke.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Project Sunshine: A semi-secret engagement project

J was one of my clients who specifically told me he didn’t want a diamond and wanted a design that wasn’t “everybody else’s”. His was also an unconventional journey right from the start because his then-girlfriend, now-fiancee, M, was clued into the project. He wanted to co-create the ring with her, as a journey together of sorts. I loved the idea.

We settled on an unheated sapphire based on the reasons listed here. Of all the colours, M liked the blue-green sapphire tones best (coincidentally, so do I). It turned out that this particular shade was immensely hard and the difficulty was compounded by the fact that all three of us were fixated with a trilliant shape of at least 7mm in diameter and didn’t want to settle for anything else. After calls to over twenty contacts (who had also contacted their own contacts separately) and vetting what seemed like over hundreds of stones, we finally found it!

The stone wasn’t a perfect trilliant, in that the edges was curved, and the luster of the stone wasn’t maximised because the original cutter wanted to maxmise its carat weight in order to get the most amount of money out of it. However, I got my favourite lapidary artisan, an American man named John, to re-cut it. John’s an absolute genius with gemstones, coming from a family or artisans and having been working on his craft for more than 20 years. To date, he’s cut more than 12000 stones, typically high value ones with some pieces being collector stones that weigh over 800 carats.

The final stone weighed in at 1.49 ct and we got it certified to confirm that it was indeed unheated. It was also certified that the stone originated from the Ilagaga mine from Madagascar (a nice bonus of a sapphire as it’s typically impossible to certify where white diamonds originate from). Because of the unique nature of this particular sapphire rough, the stone had a rather shallow pavilion so John couldn’t facet it as much as he wanted. Again, it was one of the inherent idiosyncracies of a stone such as this, where they don’t typically come in large sized roughs.

The design process was a semi-secret between J and I. After initially consulting M about some conceptual looks, J and I took over. After many e-mails later, with specific, incredibly thoughtful ideas of what he thought M would like, we came up with this. Nothing frilly, nothing overly elaborate but nonetheless, a strongly design-driven piece to showcase the main stone to its best ability.

Three diamond prongs with milgrain bordering that kept the stone in place with the label’s asymmetrical shank in a half-eternity diamond band, again bordered with milgrain etchings on the side. The final look we were gunning for was something classic with a vintage twist – nothing overly glamorous or over-the-top luxe. J specified that he wanted M to have the choice to wear the ring everyday.

We labelled this secret mission “project sunshine” because the engraving he chose was simple: “only ‘sunshine!’” he said. I loved it, and more importantly, M wrote me to tell me she did too.

A job well done, J, if I dare say so myself. ;) Congratulations both of you, and may the wedding planning be smooth sailing. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An unconventional engagement gem: the sapphire

I’ve had a number of unconventional engagement projects in recent months where clients have told me to steer away from the ubiquitous diamond solitaire. And by far, the most popular choice after the diamond is the sapphire. I thought I’d pen a few words re. the choice of this stone over the diamond and I’ll be happy to talk with anyone else in private should they wish to pick out a separate stone.

It’s a natural choice: for one, it has a Mohs hardness of 9, just one under diamond’s 10; the hardness is an important criteria because engagement rings are heirloom pieces and would need to withstand the wear and tear of everyday use.

Separately, sapphires come in a variety of rich colours. The most common colour is the blue sapphire but the gemstone comes in a huge variety of shades – pink, yellow, white, black, green, orange etc.

For high significant projects like engagement rings, I generally steer clients to go for the unheated and untreated sapphires. Today, the majority of the sapphires (or gemstones for that matter) have undergone various treatments to enhance the aesthetics. The ones that are unprocessed are rare and also go for a premium, sometimes quadruple the price of a heated stone that looks virtually identical to the naked eye. But because it’s such a high significance piece, I generally suggest that clients splurge for this. To find out more about unheated sapphires and how they differ significantly from its heated and treated counterparts, the Natural Sapphire Company is a good place to check out.

A few things to note though, if you’re considering to go for a more unconventional engagement piece like the sapphire:

a) Other gemstones rarely have the same brilliance as diamonds because the diamond’s refractive index is unparalleled by most gems;
b) If you’re searching for an unheated sapphire (as opposed to a heated one) or other unheated collector stones, note that they come quite rare. Unlike diamond solitaires which are readily available if you know the right brokers, unheated sapphires are very much treasure hunts – sometimes you find it, sometimes you don’t. This is especially so if you want slightly unconventional colours like a teal sapphire or a bi-coloured pink-orange sapphire. Thus, allow yourself the flexibility to shortlist a couple of shapes once you’ve shortlisted the colour.
c) Allow the sapphire to be a lot heavier and bigger than what you’d want in a diamond. This is especially so if you’re going for a darker-coloured stone. The subtle brilliance and the colour will make the stone appear comparatively smaller compared to the white diamond. A 3-carat sapphire will probably have the same “bling” effect as a 1-carat white diamond of reasonable luster.
d) Allow your sapphires to have tiny visible inclusions if possible – it adds character to the stone. More practically, it further limits the search of the sapphire if we insist on something completely eye-clean.
e) Lastly, anything about 3.0ct is very rare. It’s possible for sure, especially if you’d like it in midnight blue colours but the bi-coloured, unconventional colours might limit your search to stones below 3.0 ct.

Here ends my lecture. I’ll be talking about the individual projects separately soon. :) Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tying the knot

The recipient, K has said yes, so Z gave me the go ahead to post this. :) He wanted an unconventional proposal ring - no diamond solitaires or big gems he said; instead, he wanted textured metal with as few stones as possible, preferably none. I gently pushed him to include five tiny diamond accents because I thought it'd be a nice contrast and luxe addition to the textured metal and he agreed. So here's the final piece: An endless knot in 18KT burnished yellow gold, hammered with milgrain bordering.
Z has allowed me the use of the knot theme for the label's other pieces and since I love it so much, I'm thinking of minor adaptations to this one to anniversary gifts. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Candy-coloured open-ended rings

Pretty little maids, all in a row...

Lilac flourite and green amethyst gesmtones in 18KT rose gold vermeil. Free sized.

Available at Colette @ Forum the Shopping Mall.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Organic large hoop earrings

Organic, hammered large hoop earrings.
Green tourmalines and 18KT rose gold vermeil.
Available at Tang+Co Paragon, Singapore.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The myth of one of a kind

In the jewellery industry, the idea of a jewellery piece being genuinely being one of a kind is pretty rare because while designers might say that something isn't replicable, it's usually a case whereby their access to raw supplies is limited. Thus, saying something is OOAK is a bit of a misnomer- most of the time, it's more of a function of how a) skillful one's craftsmen and lapidary artisans are at recreating a particular look again; b) how good your access is in the gems market.

However, sometimes, a piece comes along that's so rare that you can sieve through hundreds and thousands of stones and won't find the exact replica. We recently did one that was like that. Three siblings wanted to get a corker of a piece (and OOAK) for their mother's birthday in December.

Large, organic agate piece embellished with hammered sterling silver branches and blue-green sapphires. Chain comprised of top quality labradorite cabochons and fresh-water baroque pearls and the label's asymmetrical ring shanks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New jade rings

Available at Tang+Co Orchard.


Tang+Co Accessories, Paragon.


For clients who are based overseas, please e-mail us at