Museum pieces take on new life as jewellery

Five Singapore-based jewellery designers create bling inspired by artefacts from the Asian Civilisations Museum

Fashion and art have always been closely intertwined, and a new home-grown collaboration is bringing that relationship to the fore.

The Textile and Fashion Federation (TaFF) Singapore and the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) have partnered to present The Museum Collection, a first-of-its-kind collaborative retail initiative featuring home-grown and Singapore-based designers.

Designers will be given access to ACM's collection, and can also tap curators and industry experts, to develop exclusive pieces inspired by these precious artefacts.

The final collections will be sold exclusively at multi-label store Design Orchard.

The collaborative opportunity was open to TaFF members, who sent in design proposals for their capsule collections inspired by conversations with and visits to ACM, says Mr Leonard Augustine Choo, TaFF's director of industry development and engagement.

Available to purchase in-store, the first iteration spotlights jewellery, with collections from five Singapore-based jewellery designers - Boheme SG, BP de Silva Jewellers, Marilyn Tan Jewellery, Pearly Lustre and State Property.

For her capsule, French designer Veronique Machharam of Boheme SG drew from Peranakan bridal jewellery and Chinese dragon motifs seen in the museum.

Titled Xanadu, the collection ($80 to $980) pays homage to the ancient city of Shangdu - located in present-day Zhenglan Banner, Inner Mongolia - and its legends of emperors and dragons.

Heritage brand BP de Silva Jewellers, founded in 1872, offers a nod to its own legacy with the Moonlight Collection ($2,800 to $3,200) - a contemporary take on signet rings, which were traditionally engraved with the wearer's family crest, set with a Blue Sheen Moonstone.

Singaporean designer Marilyn Tan, who has an eponymous label, took inspiration from early 20th-century jewellery stencils in the museum's collection. She turned these work-in-progress tools into wearable, standalone works of art - by making them larger, and in 925 silver and gold vermeil with matte and polished finishes.

There are necklaces, earrings and rings ($660 to $1,490). Necklaces are strung on leather cords to accentuate the timeless shapes of the pendants.

Pearl speciality label Pearly Lustre's nine pieces ($88 to $288) - including earrings, necklace and bracelets - are inspired by antique jewellery pieces from Asia, and given a fresh spin with pearls.

Founders Caroline and Wilson Tan started the brand to make pearls - once the preserve of royalty, the wealthy or elder women - a more inclusive gem that is not limited by age and class.

Finally, fine jewellery label State Property's capsule is inspired by the divergent stages of life and death in two distinct groups of South-east Asian jewellery artefacts.

Husband-and-wife founders Afzal Imran and Lin Ruiyin were drawn to ancient jewellery that signifies life (decorated with engravings of flowers and leaves to symbolise fertility and vitality), and those that mark death (mourning jewellery of the past used pearls in place of diamonds as a sign of respect). These resonated with their experiences of fine jewellery as being intimately intertwined with the stages of one's life.

In their capsule ($1,900 to $2,980), there are two signet rings with intricate floral carvings, while a pair of earrings in the brand's signature silhouette gets a twist with Akoya pearls instead of diamonds.

The centrepiece - the double-faced George Mutiara Pendant - features floral carvings on one side and pearls on the other.

On the collaboration, Mr Kennie Ting, director of ACM and Peranakan Museum, says: "ACM wishes to be part of the larger local fashion and creative community and ecosystem. We hope that our our rich pan-Asian, cross-cultural heritage may be the starting point for new explorations of what Singapore fashion and design could be.

"I hope the new jewellery collections sell well as this would encourage more designers to consider using the museum and our collections as inspiration."

• The collections are available till Dec 31 at Design Orchard Retail Showcase, 250 Orchard Road

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2021, with the headline 'Museum pieces take on new life as jewellery'. Subscribe