On the hunt for unique, handcrafted jewellery? We speak to the founders of four local labels that you should have on your radar.
The brainchild of Jia Rajput, who founded the multi-label online platform out of her love for statement jewellery, House of Rajput is where emerging designers from around the world come together.
“The idea of becoming a multi-label house for jewellery and accessories evolved over time after I spotted a gap in the market here,” the 33-year-old reveals. “There is a lack of affordable luxury jewellery pieces that are statementmaking.”
House of Rajput carries a dazzling array of intricate jewellery pieces that are crafted in limited batches and incorporate a variety of embellishments – beads, Swarovski crystals sourced from Austria, freshwater pearls, and semiprecious stones.
There are even made-to-order embroidered designs, hand-sewn by skilled artisans, for a truly bespoke product.
What are the brands that you curate?
Esme and Amama for glamorous nights out, and Ritika Sachdeva for that “boho-girl vibe” or an Indo-Western look that goes well with occasion wear. They are brands from India that are handcrafted by Indian karigars (artisans).
Does your personal taste influence your selections for House of Rajput?
Yes, definitely! It has been very rewarding for me to see like-minded people sharing the same sentiments in design and brand aesthetics.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
I enjoy seeing the styling by the team at Dylan Lex, a brand from Los Angeles known for its chunky, unorthodox jewellery pieces. I resonate with its brand message to be a non-conformist in terms of finding your own style. I love the fact that a piece of jewellery is something that you can use to amplify your personal style and voice.
What are your favourite pieces?
Aine and Maremoon’s Bermuda blue dangling multi-way earrings are my favourite. I also love my Makshi Necklace II because it goes well with any outfit. Although it’s heavily embellished, it’s super lightweight and easy to wear.
Dreamt up during the pandemic by graphic designer Nadhirah Shukor, Late To The Party (LTTP) is a passion project that turned into a business. Fuelled by her creative spirit and a love for craft, this accessory brand embodies feelgood kitsch with its signature pom-pom earrings.
It all started from a skein of yarn that she picked up to experiment with. Says the 27-year-old: “I’ve always loved big and loud accessories, but having sensitive skin never really allowed me to wear them. I started LTTP with the intention of creating fully customisable earrings suitable for sensitive skin that I can and would love to wear!”
The brand has since garnered a loyal customer base, and Nadhirah plans to expand her collections to include beaded accessories.
Why pom-poms, specifically?
I actually started my craft journey years ago with the intention of learning punch needling, but I sucked at that! I didn’t know what to do with all the excess yarn, so I looked to other forms of yarn craft. The process of making pom poms is so therapeutic. It felt like I had discovered the craft at the perfect point in my life, and so I kept on practising.
Tell us more about your bestsellers.
One of my bestsellers is definitely the eyeball earrings that I made for Halloween. I guess people love them because they’re a little bit morbid, but also pretty cute.
As an entrepreneurial accessory designer, what is the Singapore market like for accessories that are not mass produced?
I would say that the market is growing very healthily as the local community has been more receptive in the past couple of years. Owners of small businesses like mine tend to pour their heart and soul into creating their pieces, and this human touch is something that can’t really be replicated through mass-produced items. Personally, I love supporting small businesses because of this. Every time I open a parcel from one, I feel like I’m taking a peek into the mind of the maker, and understanding their thought process through the smallest details.
If you prefer something more whimsical, check out Ferne Atelier, known for its earrings featuring finely rendered sceneries that are sculpted on polymer clay. Handmade from scratch by the brand’s founder Chng Weimin, each piece is an intricate labour of love.
In fact, the ubiquity of these scenes is what charms her customers. “I usually design on the go – seeing things and people in motion and the liveliness [of it all] is something that really inspires me,” says the 28-year-old, who carries her clay and tools with her for impromptu clay sessions, and an iPad to sketch her ideas.
“Inspiration almost always hits only when I’m out, so it definitely helps to be able to sketch down the ideas before I forget!”
Tell us your brand’s backstory.
My very first experience with polymer clay was with a Fimo starter kit my mum gave me 15 years ago. While I was in architecture school, I was once told by a tutor to stop drawing because I was bad at it, which really affected me as a young adult. I started overthinking simple things like process sketches, but for some reason, clay felt like a whole other medium that I could experiment with at that time without feeling like I wasn’t enough.
I started playing around with polymer clay again sometime in 2018 when I was out of a job and needed to get out of the funk that I was in. I started Ferne Atelier as a means of escape, and to find the confidence I lost in myself.
What is it about polymer clay that makes it ideal for crafting accessories?
I work mainly with polymer clay because it does not dry or crack at room temperature. I love that on its own, it has a matte finish, but it is such a versatile medium as I can always manipulate the finished texture.
You also run clay workshops. What goes on in these crafting sessions?
In our beginners’ workshop, we cover the basics of how to work and create shapes with polymer clay, and mostly to have fun with it. Pre-Covid, we had a few collaboration workshops with brands and stores like Keds, Clarins and Isetan that were sold out in minutes. It’s been a while since we’ve planned one, but now that safety measures have eased, hopefully it will be soon!
What are your bestselling pieces?
That would be the Windows & Archways Collection, which is a growing series of architectural-themed designs. I think it’s because you normally don’t expect things like architecture, landscape design, interior spaces or furniture to be the main concept in accessories like earrings, so it’s become a bit of a novelty.
This collection is more than just a “copy and paste” of a building though. I like to think it carries with it the idea that the space is lived in and holds a memory for someone, which is likely why designs like Dreaming of Santorini and the Japan shophouse designs are so loved. It reminds people of a trip they’ve taken, or a bucket-list destination.
Stella Lim, 35, founder, designer and metalsmith of her label Stelliyah Jewelry, was inspired to start her brand thanks to a fascination with treasures handcrafted by ancient artisans in a time when tools were limited. The exquisite quality and intricate details that are difficult to replicate, even with today’s advanced machinery, made her realise the true potential of the human hand.
However, the drive to learn the art of metalsmithing came purely from her own curiosity. “I never intended to start my own jewellery label,” she reveals.
“Stelliyah’s journey was more organic than calculated. I was focused on learning and improving my techniques, but then people around me started taking an interest in what I was doing. Before I knew it, I was selling my work.”
This one-woman show has carved a niche in handcrafting fine jewellery with an organic and raw edge, building her portfolio with a steady stream of customers actively seeking her skills to create commissioned pieces for special occasions.
Her proudest work to date? A bracelet with hand-carved emerald beads that she made for her late grandmother, who was also Stelliyah’s biggest supporter.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I like to go through my box full of scrap materials and work from there. It’s like a treasure chest to me. Every time I open it, the little odd-shaped bits and wires would spark a new idea in my head. I would then cut, join and shape some of the pieces until I end up with something I like.
What types of precious metals and gems do you work with?
I work mainly with precious metals such as gold and silver, as well as hand-cut gemstones like sapphires, emeralds, diamonds, and tanzanites. My metals are sourced primarily from suppliers in the US, where they are certified as ethically mined. As for gemstones, I get them from my list of trusted suppliers all over the world.
What’s the process to order a custom piece?
I would first meet with the client to get a general idea of what they want, and then brainstorm ideas with rough sketches or images. Once the design is finalised, I would start sourcing. I work on a production schedule, so each project typically takes about six to nine months to complete.
Tell us more about your signature pieces.
My clients love the organic and raw details that they can’t get from most commercial jewellery brands. They would request for Stelliyah’s signature rough and blemished textures on their pieces. A unique quality about these “imperfections” is that the wear and tear of each piece will only add more character to the jewellery over time, making it more personal.
What is the Singapore market like for artisans such as yourself?
It has definitely shifted positively in the last decade. There is a growing number of consumers who are not only actively seeking out artisanal work, but are also aware of the value of handcrafted items. People also used to assume that locally made items were cheaper and of lower quality than commercially manufactured items, but thankfully, that is no longer the mindset now.