Tuesday, 12 June 2012

My Vintage Jewel Box: Artisanal jewellery, hand-made with love

One of the best things about artisanal jewellery is not only the individuality of the pieces but also the fact that you are keeping traditions alive. Ready-made, mass produced pieces can be pretty of course but they don’t have that charm. That special something which only a hand-made piece can bring to the table.

And it’s not just old aunties and uncles who are keeping this tradition alive. We’re lucky that there are still people like Carrie K flying the flag for a dying artform.

Another young buck (or deer) striving to prove Singapore does produce things is Ryn, a young artisan who hand-makes each piece of jewellery from scratch using traditional techniques and tools.

Breaking away from the conventional styles, Ryn’s works under her label ‘My Vintage Jewel Box’ have an organic-vintage touch - hewn from raw quality materials like silver, gold and natural gemstones, and heavily influenced by nature and vintage styles. 

Ryn, working on a set of rings at her humble studio space.

The result is unpretentious, charming pieces which look so beautiful and rugged. Mixing modern and vintage elements in their design yet are overall simple, practical to wear and authentic.

Is it easy? In her own words, Ryn tells me she often finds it frustrating that the public do not understand the hard work behind making jewellery from scratch and that's why it's a dying trade in Singapore.

And asking her about why she does it in the first place, Ryn answers ‘Somehow I feel an affinity to it and find myself transported to a different world when designing and making jewellery...yes, there are tough days too, especially during hot afternoons (my studio is non-air conditioned ) and inspiration hits a wall.’

Of course it’s hard to appreciate this dying form of art sometimes, so I’m taking you on a visual journey to Ryn’s world. Introducing you to the process of making a 3-piece set of rings from scratch and hoping that the next time you appreciate a piece of jewellery like hers, you also understand the passion and hard work which goes behind it – and above all the determination which people like Ryn have to keep this beautiful tradition alive.

 1 - After sketching the ring designs, Ryn selects the materials to work with, including the gems and metals. In this case, for a 3pc set of ultra slim simple stacking rings, 14K rose and white gold are chosen to give understated contrast to the white moissanite, purplish blue sapphire and polished raw silver diamond.

2 - The metals are then cut, formed, soldered and filed to create the setting for each gem. Yes, apparently her fingernails do get 'manicured' everyday, especially when working with small settings like the 3mm diameter one pictured here By the way, the red stain is not blood but red ink from coloured water gel soil she used for a plant earlier :-)

3 - The ring shanks are also formed and soldered. The rings don't look very pretty at the moment because once under fire, the precious metals will change colour and need to cleaned and filed before they can be restored back to their original shine.

4 - Once the setting is completed and ensured it fits the gem properly, it is then soldered to the ring shank. 

5 - After the ring shell is checked thoroughly to ensure it is soldered properly, it is given a warm chemical bath called 'pickle', followed by a good scrub under soapy water. 

6 - Almost shiny again :) The shanks are given a final hammered finish for an organic touch. Next, a 5 to 8-step hand polishing process to remove all rough edges and buff the rings back to their original shine - a long arduous process. Apparently at times, Ryn have to take regular breaks to prevent herself from falling asleep, which will be dangerous! Sometimes, polishing can take as long as making the jewelry itself. 

7 - After the ring shells are polished, they are now ready for the final stage of setting the gemstones! 

8 - A 3mm diameter white moissanite is set in a 14K white gold. (Side note: Ryn usually prefers natural gems but has to make some exceptions. Moissanites are lab-created diamonds which means they have the same chemical composition and hardness as nature-made diamonds. They look almost exactly like the real thing and best thing yet, they are so much affordable and conflict-free!)

9 - 3pc ultra slim stacking rings with hammered finish completed. (Side note: White gold is typically rhodium-plated to give it a uniform shiny white finish. Ryn prefers non-plated white gold for its natural, greyish tinge, which gives a rustic contrast to the purplish blue sapphire and sparkly white moissanite.)

Ryn makes custom-made orders and sells these hand-made rings and other beautiful jewellery on her site, myvintagejewellbox.com and she regularly shows at MAAD (next one is July 13) and the Public Garden. For more information do like her facebook page.