Student's grandmother loves to borrow her jade pieces

Most women would recall asking their grandmothers to let them wear the family's precious heirlooms, but it was the other way round for student Elisabeth Li.

The 23-year-old, who owns five pieces of jade jewellery - three pairs of earrings and two rings - from local label Gen.K Jewelry, says her maternal grandmother borrows her jade pieces.

The 82-year-old especially favours the ring with a mother and baby bee detail.

"She would take out my jade pieces and say, 'Oh this is not bad, this is nice,'" says the final-year psychology and sociology student at a private university. "She vets my outfits when I go out."

Ms Li lives with her grandmother, who has looked after her since she was seven months old, and two aunts.

The two share a close bond and, recently, an interest in jade.

"Whenever I buy jewellery, I would show it to her first," says Ms Li, who has spent about $1,600 on her jade pieces with money earned from part-time work and from her savings.

Ms Elisabeth Li spent about $1,600 on her five pieces of jade jewellery.
Ms Elisabeth Li spent about $1,600 on her five pieces of jade jewellery. PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES


"Jade is deemed old-fashioned because it's not seen frequently with contemporary jewellery and is usually associated with old people."

"But I beg to differ."

Her first piece of jade jewellery was a pair of earrings with a dangling butterfly backing from Gen.K Jewelry, which she bought for $368 last year after she heard about the brand through a friend.

"I like that I can take the dangling butterfly backing out so I can just wear it as a pair of stud earrings," she says. "It brings a touch of elegance and sophistication to my look."

Although she had seen her grandmother put on jade pieces, including a plain dark green jade bangle, since she was a child, it was not love at first sight.

"I didn't really appreciate jade," says Ms Li.

"I used to follow my grandma to Chinatown weekly and her first stop would be a goldsmith shop that was near to Hong Lim Complex. She would introduce me to everyone and show me the jewellery, but at the time I thought it was very oldfashioned.

"Now as I mature, my perception changes.I used to not like gold, but now I really like gold. It's the same for jade. I feel that there's a sophistication to jade," she says, adding that she has worn her grandmother's jade jewellery. She once paired a plain dark green jade bangle with a white dress - a tip from her grandmother.

While Ms Li has come to appreciate her grandmother's dark green jade pieces, she prefers lighter jade colours with lavender tones as she feels they complement her skin tone better.

Conceding that she may be ahead of the curve when it comes to her choice of jewellery, she says: "I guess growing up with my grandmother did change the way I look at jewellery.

"My taste in jewellery isn't so similar to other girls in general, but having something that others might not exactly appreciate is a good thing. I like owning pieces that are different."

Alyssa Woo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Student's grandmother loves to borrow her jade pieces'. Print Edition | Subscribe