From wildly creative to wearable-traditional, these proudly made-in-Singapore jewellers are taking local bling to a shiny, new level.
The phrase “support local” has been much bandied of late, whether it’s for fashion, food, or the performance and literary arts. And the truth of the matter is that those that do get the support have made sure to think globally but act locally. As is the case of these made-in-Singapore jewellery designers that purvey exquisite pieces, with a unique place in a competitive, glocal, fine jewellery market.
Their secret? Blending cutting-edge designs with a local heritage and history, while working with the best materials and craftsmen in the world, and at the same time offering personalized service at competitive prices.
MADLY Bespoke Jeweler
Creative, fun, resourceful. Three words that define MADLY, and its effervescent founder, the inimitable Maddy Barber. She may be the darling of morning drive-time radio, but something else also shines bright in this power house’s life.
A deep-seated passion for bright and precious things runs in her family. Says the exuberant and bubbly Maddy, “My love for gemstones and jewellery comes from my mum. Growing up, I remember lusting after everything she wore and would sneak into her room and play dress up with her jewellery when she was at work. I remember breaking one of her jade bangles once and bless her soul, she didn’t spank me for it. Mum has always loved bright, vivid and happy colours and so it’s no surprise that I do too!”
As if in ode to her mother, Maddy created MADLY in 2015. MADLY’s USP is unsurprisingly “about living life in colour, joyfully and boldly, on your own terms.” They are not your typical jeweler, nor do they aim to be. If you enjoy rare stones designed in unique settings that express just your particular taste, MADLY is your happy place. Says Maddy, “there’s no reason why our studio shouldn’t be the happiest place on earth! MADLY is an experience and a culture that embraces all things bright, colourful and happy: from the spirit of our team to the works we produce – breaking free from all the norms of what people are used to when it comes to fine jewelry.”
Madly’s creations may be precious and finely put together, but there is no snobbery, only attentive sincerity in what they try to achieve for every client. “We do not speak in hushed tones nor do you need to dress up for us to give you the attention you deserve. Candid conversations and laughter are highly encouraged, and we believe in educating our clients on the value of what we sell before they buy. Our focus on quality permeates everything we are and do – from quality time we believe each client deserves no matter their budget, an impeccable level of service, to the quality of our gemstones and craftsmanship. Our works speak for themselves and strong word of mouth from our clients and jewellery fans not just in Singapore, but from around the world, is something that money just can’t buy,” says Maddy, whose vivaciousness and candor belie a focused steeliness.
Maddy’s vision is for MADLY to be “proudly Singaporean, with a global outreach. At the heart of it all, we are people-centric and our inspiration is not limited to any one country or race. We may hail from Singapore, but the art we create speaks the universal language of beauty that celebrates individuality and the freedom to express who you are and what you like.”
And by ‘people-centric’, it also means that they aren’t just about catering to customised aesthetics and tastes. “At MADLY, we do our best to be both budget and quality conscious. It’s a balancing act and a very fine line to walk. Once we’ve had an understanding of a client’s style, preferences and requirements, we will come up with 2-3 drafts of design variations within the specified budget, which often includes a wildcard that might possibly exceed the budget, but gives the client something to get excited about and sleep on. This way, clients get a good idea of what their money buys and they can decide how elaborate and how much they wish to spend,” explains Maddy.
And while MADLY is proudly Singaporean, its craftsmanship and gems come from the best in the world. “Gemstones are formed and coloured by the minerals in the ground and they vary from place to place. Thus, depending on the type of gemstones, different minerals are found in different parts of the world. For example, sapphires, rubies and spinels are often found in the same geological setting, all being varieties of the mineral corundum. Every sapphire mine produces a wide range of quality, and origin is not a guarantee of quality. Kashmir commands the highest premium though rarely found or seen at all, whilst Burma, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar also produce large quantities of fine quality sapphires.”
Elaborating on MADLY’s workmanship, Maddy adds, “We work with a very exclusive and select group of tradesmen who also supply, cut and craft for Europe’s biggest and most established high jewellery brands, so when you hold a piece of MADLY jewel, you can see and feel the difference, the passion and artisanship that go into it.”
In true MADLY (and Maddy) fashion, “our world is colourful, more complementary than matchy-matchy, and sometimes slightly askew, because such is life and so are we! I don’t think anyone does more asymmetrical designs than we do, where stones are set slightly askew and everything is a little off-centre. So, you could say that is pretty ‘classic MADLY’.”
A happy accident was what sparked it all for Carrie K.’s creator, Carolyn Kan. “In 2008, I decided to go on a year-long sabbatical from the corporate race to do all the things I had promised myself I would do ‘one day’. When I was in Florence, I met a silversmith, who taught me how to make jewellery. I was in my teacher’s workshop putting the final touches to my first ring. The rain had just stopped and the sun shone through the window as I looked up at my work. I had this overwhelming sense of happiness and I knew then that I wanted to be a silversmith and jewellery designer and Carrie K. was born in July 2009.”
Evidently, Carrie K.’s distinctive DNA is built on modernity and tradition, and if it has a special following that spans generations, it’s because, says Carolyn, “we design jewellery that mums love and daughters want to ‘steal’. The pieces can be converted to look classic or stacked to look edgy, but all our designs are centred around meaningful stories we hope to get passed on.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of every Carrie K. design. On a deeper level, what goes to the heart of her thoughtful albeit wearable pieces are stories. Carolyn says, “A few years ago when I was showing in Paris during fashion week, a journalist asked me what story I would tell about Singapore. That really got me thinking about how I would distil Singapore stories that were universally relevant in our jewellery designs. That was when I decided to create modern heirloom jewellery inspired by our Singapore heritage and culture. We made it relevant by designing the jewellery with a contemporary twist. All our Modern Heirloom designs are inspired by Singapore stories. The first of our Modern Heirlooms, the Heritage collection is inspired by the Peranakan tile and talks about the Chinese ideal of four generations living harmoniously under one roof. We look for Singapore stories to retell through jewellery, as a meaningful reminder of our heritage and values.”
She adds, “At about the same time, we were getting quite a lot of requests for our heirloom revival service, where customers brought us pieces of jewellery that they had inherited. They did not like the traditional designs, but the jewellery had sentimental value. As such, they wanted us to repurpose the gems into more modern designs. That was when we realised that there was a gap for modern heirloom jewellery – jewellery that would appeal to a wide age range connected by a love for youthful, unique designs that told meaningful stories that people would want to pass on. The best way to achieve that was to create jewellery designs that are versatile and may be worn simply for every day wear, or stacked to create a different statement for special occasions. Our rings, for example, come in contemporary open geometric shapes that wear beautifully on their own. They also precisely frame our simple custom-cut gem ring that slots perfectly in the centre of the frame for occasions that call for some sparkle. Many of our earrings come with ear jackets so you can wear just the simple stud earring or add on the jacket to add a bit of glamour to it. We also custom cut our own gems, so each collection is made even more unique with custom gem cuts like the Hexagonal gems from the Heritage Hexa pieces.”
Carrie K. is also about constantly creating smart concepts that offer clients mileage. “We are always looking to give a fresh twist to staid, age-old gems. Our big focus this year will be to change people’s perception that pearl necklaces are traditional by redesigning how people are able to wear it. We will be launching proprietary pearl necklace accessories that will allow you to style the classic pearl necklace multiple ways.”
While Carrie K.’s most iconic and popular collections are the custom-cut Hexagon gems that form stackable rings paired with the Star open ring, and while the versatile Star earrings are currently their most recognizable looks for being classic-with-a-twist that converts to elegance-with-an-edge, Carolyn also recognises the “growing demand among brides-to-be looking for ‘si dian jin’ jewellery that is more contemporary, and versatile enough for them to dial up the styling for their wedding and dial down for everyday work wear.”
She adds that “some customers buy mother-daughter pieces that they share, so it’s living up to our goal to create jewellery that mothers love to wear, and daughters want to ‘steal’. At the start, mothers would buy the pieces for themselves and their daughters would end up borrowing them. Recently, a customer bought a set of pearl earrings with an edgy ear jacket for her mother’s birthday, and she has since been borrowing the earrings from Mum. That makes me smile, because then I know we have achieved our goal to cross the generational style gap to create versatile jewellery designs that both mothers and daughters love!”
And while Carrie K.’s bejewelled pieces may be inspired by beloved Singapore-themed stories of family, love and community, “our gems and materials are from specialists based all over the world. Our Akoya pearls are from Japan, we also custom cut gems from different parts of the world to our unique shapes. We work with best-in-category specialist craftsmen based in Singapore and Thailand, who enjoy the challenge of our non-traditional designs and requirements, as we’re always pushing the boundary.”
Images courtesy of respective jewellers, artwork by Curatedition.