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

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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. www.foun­da­tion­jew­

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