Friday, 30 October 2020

This Singapore boutique jeweller says the rules have changed

*Produced by SilverKris for Carat 55*

Though she grew up surrounded by jewellery designers, craftsmen and the finest diamonds and gemstones, it wasn’t until Zoie Teo was shopping for her own Chinese bridal set in 2012 that she first realised how limited her options were.

“There were a lot of chain stores, selling ornate, classical yellow-gold pieces that didn’t appeal to me,” the second-generation jeweller recalls. “The quality was about adequate, and the designs were generic. I knew I would never wear these pieces again after my wedding.”

Enter Carat 55, the boutique studio she launched near Singapore’s Fort Canning in 2017 to offer a seamless and enjoyable experience for millennial brides. Working with GIA-certified diamonds and craftsmen from all around the world, the studio offers affordable fine jewellery with bespoke designs. “Carat 55 designs impressive pieces that are still affordable and accessible – and appeal to the new generation of clients,” she says.

Carat 55 founder Zoie Teo

In the three years that Carat 55 has been in business, Zoie has observed the ways in which tastes and values have changed, especially among her younger twenty- and thirty-something clients. While diamonds and expensive bridal sets retain their traditional place, millennials are increasingly questioning the classic rulebook of buying and wearing fine jewellery.

“More and more couples are choosing the engagement ring together,” she says. “Brides today don’t want to be surprised. They want to choose the size, the cut, the setting. They don’t want to leave it up to their fianc├ęs.”

And that’s just the start. Here, Zoie takes us through some of the other ways in which jewellery-shopping has evolved, and how Carat 55 rises to meet these new tastes.

Carat 55 boutique at Tank Road

There’s life after the wedding

Zoie is not alone in wanting a Chinese bridal set that she can wear for years to come. Comprised of a pair of earrings, a necklace, a ring and a bracelet, si dian jin is worn by brides all together on their wedding day or engagement ceremony. But to avoid relegating them to the memento closet, Carat 55 designs light and contemporary si dian jin that brides can mix and match for daily wear thereafter.

And though engagement rings and wedding bands are Carat 55’s bread and butter, its clients are increasingly interested marking other special occasions with jewellery. Many come in to purchase earrings and necklaces as gifts or Christmas presents. “Carat 55’s Bliss collection is especially popular for gifts,” she explains, referring to diamond-studded figures of little boys and girls. “We’ve had dads purchase them for their wives, to mark the birth of children.”

Break free of the old benchmarks

Many of Carat 55’s younger clientele are no longer swayed by the longstanding rules around wedding jewellery: that an engagement ring should be a diamond solitaire, for example, or that it should cost eight times the groom’s monthly salary. Rather than be held back by such traditions, millennial shoppers are forging their own rules.

“I have grooms who come in and say, ‘I have less than S$2,000.’ And actually there’s a lot we can offer them,” Zoie says. Carat 55 has over 200 ring designs available for viewing in-store. These designs spur ideas, and customers can refer to them when developing their bespoke pieces.

Diamonds are not the only gem

The other once-unimpeachable rule that is being questioned is that diamonds are forever. While the solitaire “rock” was once the only acceptable option for engagement rings, couples are now making different choices. “Rather than a solitaire, brides may choose impressive, bigger designs with clusters of small diamonds,” Zoie says. “That’s also how we bring the price down.”

Many couples forego diamonds all together, and opt for a different gemstone that suits their personality. “Rubies, sapphires, morganites and other gemstones come in many colours and can vary a lot in price,” she explains.

Tell your story with jewellery

Carat 55 recently had the honour of helping a young and imaginative couple create their perfect engagement ring: “We did a design with ametrine. It’s a bi-colour stone that’s a mix of citrine and amethyst,” Zoie explains. “The couple chose it because it represented both of their birth months.”

Carat 55 also works with customers who wish to give a new lease of life to a treasured family heirloom. “Sometimes people want to use an old diamond or jade bangle that belonged to their grandmother – we can help them come up with a bespoke design that’s contemporary and matches their style.

Timeless touches in daily life

As millennial shoppers evolve in terms of style and spending power, Zoie observes that more women wish to replace their statement faux accessories with bona fide jewellery, such as a simple pair of diamond studs for daily wear. Carat 55 also sells diamond earrings that can be worn in two ways: with a detachable hoop for a dressier look, or without for casual outings. “It’s just a misconception that precious jewellery is out of reach,” she says. “Our starting point is S$300 to S$500.” Besides, unlike faux accessories that need to be regularly replaced, these affordable pieces will last forever.

Whatever the occasion, the budget or the wearer’s personality, Carat 55 prides itself on its personalised service and consultations to help customers navigate their choices. To make an appointment, visit the official website.

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