Monday, March 29, 2010

The homage to the bezel

There were two design inspirations for this series, one of it being an homage to the bezel. The bezel is the oldest form of setting a gem and traditionally the most secure, because the entire stone is embedded within the metal. Some jewellers also think it more elegant than the classic prong setting because it hugs the gem at all parts, giving it a streamlined effect.

While I don’t particularly privilege the bezel over the prong set, I did want the entire collection to stay true to this particular way of stone-setting, a dedication of the importance of the bezel and the hope that people would be aware of the significance of having gems set in such a way.

Just like all our other fine jewellery pieces, our bezel was a jazzed-up version of the classic piece, utilising the label’s signature hammered, banged-up look. This, together with a series of coloured checkerboard gemstones was used along with the very classic emerald-cut gems – a contrast between the organic asymmetry of the metal and the classically-cut, flawless luster of the gemstones.

Thus, there was none of the intricate paved gems or any of tiny accent gems that might take away the focus from the hammered bezel. Instead, this homage to the bezel made this collection perfect for functional, everyday use, but with strong little quirks incorporating the label’s design philosophy of asymmetry and organic texture.
They are now available at Cate for people available overseas. In Singapore, they are available at Colette @ The Forum.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A different sort of engraving

W & C wanted a pair of very classic wedding bands with the explicit instruction that they didn't want diamonds. Where we did converge on was the organic texture of the rings and the milgrain that bordered W's row of graduated pink sapphire tones.

What got me excited about this bespoke piece was the fact that they wanted to their engraving to be done entirely in Chinese characters. I often tell clients that they have the option to engrave anything they want, including graphics. Oddly enough, everyone seems to have wanted English inscriptions as their option; thus, was pretty happy to do something that veered away from the norm.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

99.9% reclaimed precious metal

Huge emerald-cut gemstone (rock crystal, rose de france, whiskey quartz and green-gold quartz @ approximately 17 carats each) cocktail rings.

We’re very excited to be launching the bezel series for our ready-to-wear line for various reasons. We’ll be sharing them in bits and pieces over the next few weeks, and hope that you enjoy this journey with us.

The primary reason for the excitement is that it’s the first collection where we’ve managed to utilise 99.9% reclaimed sterling silver. Previously, we were only up to 50% because of logistical issues but after talks with the refinery company, we had managed to negotiate for our silver pieces to be done entirely in recycled sterling silver.

The mining of precious metals and the environmental damage it causes has only recently come to light. Thus, as part of the label’s commitment to sustainability, we’re raising awareness of this issue and doing as much as we can to offer ecologically-conscious choices for lovers of fine jewellery.

Myth One: Reclaimed sterling silver is inferior to virgin-mined sterling silver.
Negotiations were not easy and it was a little triumph for us to be able to accomplish this, especially in an industry where anything “recycled” is traditionally considered a dirty word. The common perception of recycled sterling silver is that it’s somewhat inferior to virgin-mined precious metal. The truth is, all mined metals come into existence contaminated and will have to undergo massive refining anyway. The refining methods will differ, depending on what’s been “contaminated” with but the overall process of getting the metal to its finished state is largely similar.

In the case of our reclaimed sterling silver, the process goes something like this: the scrap silver is melted down and then it undergoes a highly technical process of de-contaminating the metal. The unwanted products (anything that’s not silver) gets separated from the pure silver (99.9% concentration). Following that, it gets alloyed with other metals, diluting the silver concentration to 92.5%.

Contrast this with virgin-mined metal – it also has to undergo a refining process for it to attain a 99.9% purity. Following which, it is alloyed with other metals to dilute the concentration to 92.5%.

Initially, the refiners were a little hesitant to cast recycled metal, believing it to cause porosity issues. With nudging and trial and error and little tweaks to the process along the way, we found that not to be the case.

Myth Two: Reclaimed sterling silver is more expensive.
No, this is untrue. In fact, the refiners often make money from buying scrap silver because they buy it at a discount off the spot price. Money goes into the refining process but some profit is left over. The final price that the manufacturers pay for the reclaimed sterling silver is the same as virgin-mined metals.

If you’d like to find out more, come on down to “The Sustainability Event” on 27 Mar 10. The pieces will be available there and also at various stockists, including Cate.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Sustainability Event

Earth Hour comes on at 2030 hrs on 27 March 2010 and we thought to start it early with a tea party. Join sustainable luxury jewellery designer Choo Yilin and Sharon Siew, owner of, for a day of expressing your own love for the earth.

Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery will be giving 50 sgd cash vouchers for five pieces of sterling silver jewellery or 50 grams of sterling silver scrap. The designer will bring back the silver to the refinery in Bangkok and have it refined and reused for the label's silver work. Separately, Cate will also be giving out 50 sgd cash vouchers for your five best pieces of unwanted office-wear in mint condition. These items will go to young ladies participating in a mentorship and career programme run by Beautiful People.

We’re also launching Choo Yilin’s Bezel Series, a collection of stackable and layered coloured-gemstones pieces. It’s an exciting swap from 50% to 99.9% reclaimed sterling silver. And Cate unveils a new ecologically and socially responsible label, Song. Discerning customers will love their design-driven and sustainable fashion pieces with friendly price points.

Both collections are going for special prices on Saturday. In addition, there will be lots of other goodies as seen on Cate’s website.

DATE: 27 Mar 10
TIME: 1100 – 1800 hrs
VENUE: The Metz
83 devonshire road
singapore 239864
RSVP: 26 Mar 10 for catering purposes.

The Metz is accessible via Orchard Boulevard and River Valley Road, and is within walking distance of Somerset MRT Station.

For more information, please contact:
Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery – or 9451 1010/+66 849 026 409;
Cate – or 9742 8178.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

with rings on her fingers...

Here's what's been on my fourth finger in the last few weeks. From top to bottom: asymmetrical diamond band, modified half-eternity diamond band with milgrained bezels, my original wedding band.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In love with milgrain and texture

When I got married a number of years ago, I chose a classic shared-prong setting for my wedding band. I wear it faithfully everyday but I sometimes wonder what I can do to dress it up with. My personal taste tends to run into bold, chunky pieces (although it's seemingly a lot more mellow these days) so a thin, classic diamond ring is at odds with the rest of my style. Thus, I thought I'd design a wedding ring that would encapsulate all the elements of what I love - asymmetry and organic texture - while still keeping in the themes of traditional weddings - femininty, a vintage influence and an old-world hand-worn effect.

I am madly and deeply in love with milgrain - the little etchings you see that border the edges of metal. We most commonly see it in the eternity band for brides but I'm thinking that the milgrain should be incorporated in more bridal pieces. It automatically conveys a feminine and vintage look and adds a hand-worked texture to the piece. The latter is especially important in bridal jewellery because of the lack of coloured gems - diamonds and 18KT white gold may look a little cold and flat - and milgrain handles all of that wonderfully. :)

My love of asymmetry was incorporated into this piece along with the love for an organic texture. Sandblasted and hammered along with different sized diamonds placed at different intervals. The result - it looks like you're wearing a different ring with each twist of the shank and the impact really hits you when you wear it stacked.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Karen Artisan Cufflinks

It seems rather anachronistic that we have a few hilltribe cufflinks but we do. Heavily textured and asymmetrically placed gemstones. :)

On second thoughts, I guess it’s not terribly odd, given that we’ve set out to fuse a traditional, ethnic art form and modern luxury.

They're available exclusively at Cate. And are going for a 15% discount till 31 Mar 10.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Karen Hilltribes Trust

The hilltribe artisans are a success in the social entrepreneurship business model – they have taken a skill that’s been with them for centuries and have successfully marketed it in today’s modern market place, all the while deciding for themselves how much change they’d like to embrace.

In the Mae Hong Son region, in a part that’s slightly north-west of where the hilltribe artisans are, live large clusters of Karen people. The story for these Karen people is a direct contrast to the silversmiths. For one, the unforgiving environmental climate has not allowed them to be sustainable through subsistence agriculture, let alone commercial agriculture in order to generate funds for their daily living like sending their children‘s schooling. Separately, their lack of commercial skills as well as the poor infrastructure puts them in a position where generating their own wealth is a near impossibility.

We visited these villages in January 2009 and witnessed how a Karen man was in charge of administrating aid under the auspices of the Karen Hilltribes Trust, a transparently and efficiently run charity. Salahae and team work to sustain the villages through providing access to education and the water irrigation systems, as well as basic amenities like blankets, latrines and rice.

Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery and Cate are working with the Karen Hilltribes Trust to build a better future for these Karen people. It is our hope that with education and the infrastructure put in place, they would eventually be self-sufficient and development aid becomes no longer necessary. The label is selling its jewellery cleaning kit where 100% of its proceeds will be donated to the charity. They are available here.

If you like to donate directly to the charity itself or would simply like to learn more about the charity, please visit

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The first apertifs rings redux

E wanted a trio of cocktail rings to match with her existing beautiful earrings and a necklace she had. We quickly and easily decided on rejigging our best selling cocktail rings, the first apertifs rings, a little.

The primary difference was the centre gemstone - instead of having a checkerboard cushion cut gem, we decided on a fancy-shaped gem. Specifically, it was a cabochon with a checkerboard top. Also, because she wanted the option to wear the rings in a stack, we had to reduce the size of the gemstones.

18KT solid rose gold. Rose de france, whiskey quartz and amethyst as the main stones. Embellished with pink sapphires, rhodolite garnets, pink tourmalines and amethysts.

The original first apertif rings are available here.