Like many of us, veteran jewellery designer Marilyn Tan had to slow down soon after the pandemic arrived in early 2020. A lover of adventure whose designs are often inspired by her travels to far-flung locales such as Ethiopia, Tan says, “It gave me time to think, design and explore the direction I wanted to take.” She offers bespoke and one-of-a-kind creations under the label Marilyn Tan Jewellery, and more affordable options under MTJ Collections.
An upcoming collection, aptly called The Great Pause, is one of the outcomes of that rumination. Nearly two years in the making, the collection features the use of pieces of abstractly cut jadeite from a personal collection amassed over the decades, alongside precious and semi-precious gemstones.
In the past year, Marilyn has explored new ways of contemplating our local cultural heritage. Among notable recent projects was the crown she designed for Miss Universe Singapore, which was unveiled last September. Crafted from silver and encrusted with 677 lab-grown diamonds from The Better Diamond, the tiara’s design was inspired by her Peranakan mother-in-law’s kerosang (brooches worn on a blouse). It also features five stars – a nod to the Singapore flag – and a wave pattern as a tribute to our island nation.
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Last November, the Textile and Fashion Federation announced a collaboration with the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM). Marilyn was one of five jewellery designers who created collections based on ACM archival pieces. Taking inspiration from early 20th-century jewellery-making stencils, she put a modern spin on their abstract shapes by enlarging those forms and using them as the basis for pendants crafted from 925 silver with gold vermeil.
Despite the dip in sales during the pandemic, Marilyn remains optimistic about the future of jewellery design here, nearly three decades after she first started out. She says, “People are now more appreciative of local designers. Singapore has a lot to offer, and appreciating what we have rather than always comparing ourselves to others is about us growing up as a nation.”
This article was first published in The Peak Magazine.