Behind jewellery label Simone Jewels with founder and designer, Simone Ng
She's a gem
Who is Simone Ng? Like, only one of Singapore's top 10 jewellery designers — for three years running, by the way. But if her name doesn't quite ring a bell, it's probably because her homegrown label Simone Jewels has been comfortably flying under the radar since it launched a little over a decade ago. Yup, no flashy ads or campaigns to be found here; this is luxury and exclusivity as it was intended back when buying a shiny bauble meant private appointments and deep pockets.
With a growth trajectory that's about as organic as they come, the award-winning brand also differentiates itself aesthetic-wise, weaving historical events, architecture, culture, stories, and lessons learnt from the past into its designs where no two pieces are the same. And while Simone Jewels isn't nearly as mainstream (great news if you're seeking jewellery that's not off-the-shelf), those in know have picked up on the label, including celebrities like Yvette King. Helmed by Singapore-based, Malaysian-born Ng, we talk with her as Buro interviews the creative director and aspiring entrepreneur on what makes the Simone DNA and why her creations are so sought after.
The brand is 12 years strong today, but what's the story behind how Simone Jewels came about? Were you always aiming to start a jewellery business or was designing jewellery something you fell into?
My interest in art and design kindled from a young age where I was involved in many types of art, including stitching my own outfits before I started creating jewellery for myself. Growing up, I learned about my grandparents' jewellery business and saw how my mother was very fond of jewellery designing herself and this sparked my interest. It started with designing pieces for myself and then for family and friends and from receiving many compliments, I eventually established Simone Jewels in 2006.
How was the growth like when Simone Jewels was finding its footing in the industry? Did you expect you would become one of Singapore's top 10 jewellery designers?
Recognising that we were going to move into an era of individualism, I shared the same passion for all things unique. After pursuing my MBA studies and still nursing my 2-year old toddler and 1-year old baby, I have launched a collection with just 20 one-of-a-kinds. Within 30 minutes, I sold half my collection. It was the beginning of a very encouraging and exciting journey and today my sales have since grown more than 50 times with the concept of purely distributing through events.
I have since created at least 2,000 designs with my design team in my archive, not including those that never made it to production. I'm honoured to be recognised as Singapore's top 10 jewellery designers and hope to share this passion by mentoring aspiring jewellery designers from Raffles Design Institute.
Tell us more about your latest collection, 'Birds in Poetry'. What is the inspiration, and what are some of your favourite pieces?
Drawing inspiration from the classical works of renowned poets such as William Shakespeare, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Birds in Poetry combines key poetic stanzas and feathery beauties to create a collection of jewellery that is beautifully represented in its three chapters of Enduring Love, Romantic Hope and Purity in Joy. The collection is abstract and modern yet intricate with details that tell a story. Birds in Poetry aims to both inspire and aspire.
My favourite piece is the Shakespeare Necklace as it opens to reveal a beautiful relief carving depicting the enduring love between the phoenix and the turtle dove. Adorned with diamonds and unheated blue sapphires, every inch of the pendant is carefully crafted to bring the motifs to life.
Are there any particular crafting techniques or details to look out for in the collection that folks might not immediately notice or appreciate?
No two necklaces, rings, or bracelets are the same. Each of these one-of-a-kind masterpieces is designed to reflect the emotions of Love, Hope and Joy using an exquisite range of gemstones with natural, vibrant hues of red, blue and green. Different parts of each piece are crafted by craftsmen from around the world according to their skillset and expertise. There is no craftsman who can do everything. If I'm doing something with colours, I will go with the Thais for their fine workmanship. They don't mind doing things by hand, one by one. If there are things to do with fine gold crafting and waxwork, the Hong Kong-ers.
You're also a certified gemologist. What are some of the precious gems you tend to work with and which stones from among your creations were particularly memorable for you, whether it was a challenge to source or cut?
There are a plenty of them! If I see a beautiful stone and I feel that it has potential in terms of investment, I will get it first. Sometimes the stones stay in the studio for a few years because I just have not come across an inspiration that will justify the beauty of the stone. Other times, the designs come first and then I'll find the stones that will best go into the designs. We specialise in gem stones, so I especially love coloured stones.
The most memorable stone was when I came across a rare padparadscha sapphire which is a lot more expensive than any other sapphire. In fact, it's the most rare, and most prized form of sapphire. It is also one of the most expensive gems in the world, with prices similar to those of emeralds and rubies.
I understand one-of-a-kind pieces are your specialty, and your archive has over 2,000 designs. Is it then a challenge to always come up with fresh ideas? How do you keep the creativity flowing?
Yes, it is a challenge as inspiration doesn't flow every day! There are times I get an artist's block and I would need to find some down-time through reading, sightseeing and even immersing myself in learning something new. Taking some time off to travel and explore is my favourite as it is the most rewarding for drawing fresh ideas and perceptions.
Are you still a one-woman show coming up with designs from scratch or is there now a creative team behind the brand? Incidentally, what is the creative process like from sketch to finished piece?
There is a creative team behind the brand, engineered by myself and the creative process in my design studio is very fluid. First of all, we need to have an inspiration before we sketch and find the right coloured stone. During this stage, we examine what we have put together by looking at the jewellery from different angles. Then we send it to our respective factory outlets to assemble the pieces together. Communicating with the craftsmen and developing it layer by layer is the hardest as it takes a whole lot of co-ordination. This entire process can take up to three to 18 months to conceptualise, depending on the complexity of the design.
You've remained quite exclusive without any physical stores in today's retail environment where visibility is key. Can you tell our readers how does one get around to owning a Simone Jewels piece?
Building a relationship with my customers is important to me. Through the booking of a private appointment, it allows me to understand their preference and taste. From there, I am able to recommend some pieces that I think will suit their personality.
Lastly, could you share with us some jewellery trends you're predicting will be big in the coming seasons?
With jewellery seen as a form of self-expression and younger consumers preferring customisable jewellery which are trendy yet affordable, Simone Jewels seeks to constantly innovate to meet this demand. We need to be at the forefront of the latest trends yet keep the DNA of the brand intact. Moving forward, Simone Jewels is pleased to launch our sub-brand 'Jouer by Simone Jewels' for younger consumers as well as avant-garde jewellery for both men and women.
Discover Simone Jewels here.