Singapore Tatler Jewels & Time


Foundation Jewellers is a purveyor of the esoteric art of Peranakan jewellery, espousing its delicate, artistic form and introducin­g it to the next generation


It was the choice pastime for wealthy women of yore, beguiling their afternoons at their jewellers’, commission­ing dazzling baubles around a wonderful stone they had just acquired, or simply admiring existing ones. In Singapore’s golden days, the matriarchs from the grand Baba-nyonya families would invite craftsmen from Sri Lanka and China to their black-and-white bungalows, commission­ing them to design and craft intricate Peranakan jewels.

It is this legacy of handcrafte­d Peranakan jewellery that Thomis Kwan (above) and Caroline Tay from Foundation Jewellers wish to preserve. It is an art that originates from 19th-century Malayan culture, where Straits Chinese immigrants built up their lives by assimilati­ng the Malay cuisine, rituals and lifestyle. The style for Peranakan art and jewellery is very much steeped in this melange of Chinese, Malay and Indo-european styles, unique in its execution and aesthetic.

Peranakan jewellery is recognisab­le by its fine craftsmans­hip and intricate designs that depict motifs dear to this culture, like the phoenix and the dragon. Brooches, belts, buttons, earrings or rings are rendered in yellow gold, and studded with intan or rose-cut diamonds. With their fine lines, curved forms and decorative details, Peranakan jewellery is a complex art, and can take months to produce. The number of craftsmen who are specialise­d in this form is dwindling, as they need many years of experience before handling such detailed work.

Over the years, the demand for this genre of jewellery dulled as modern, white gold pieces were coveted, but it has experience­d a strong comeback in recent years, thanks in part to the efforts of purveyors like Foundation Jewellers.

Thomis fell in love with Peranakan culture two decades ago, and decided that it was time that his family goldsmithi­ng business focused on this rarefied art form. It was a serendipit­ous decision, as he then found out that one of the craftsmen that worked with his family business was in fact specialise­d in the Peranakan craft. His objective was clear: to restore the full glory of this art form, and modernise it for the current generation of women and men.

To date, Foundation works with skilled artisans that are well-versed in the creation of such intricate pieces, and proudly espouses a handcrafte­din-singapore philosophy. In order to make the jewellery more palatable to the younger generation, the jeweller has injected a contempora­ry sass to its creations: the yellow gold is of a subtle hue, while the intan diamonds have been replaced by brilliantc­ut ones.

01-03/04/05 Holiday Inn Singapore. Tel: 6732 6141.­

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