Caratell’s Michael Koh weaves intricate fine jewellery inspired by sweet nostalgia

Openwork pieces with delicate cloud and floral impressions embellished with precious gemstones make up Caratell’s new collection called Above the Clouds. The collection, a poetic representation of a childhood imagination according to Caratell’s founder and chief designer, Michael Koh, was conceptualised on top of the ‘ruby’ mountain in Mogok, Myanmar.

“It was at dawn and I was at the peak of the mountain standing above the clouds, gazing into the endless horizon,” shares Michael. “The clouds appeared to frolic lazily, teasing the tall trees in the mountains, reminding me of a pure, childhood joy. It felt like the earth was meeting heaven in a joyous embrace.” It was at this moment that Michael has attempted to capture the essence of the new collection, combining exceptional design details with carefully chosen gemstones to give life to this precious memory.

Similarly, in the Floral Breeze collection, a memory of summer flowers wafting in the breeze is translated into amazing red and white bejewelled blossoms; their delicate details expressed by rare tapered rubies and sparkling tapered baguette diamonds. These floral compositions adorn rings that transform into wonderful three-dimensional hand objects. Michael reveals that it is almost impossible to source tapered rubies, and these were especially cut for the Floral Breeze designs.

In the Embroidery of Love collection, Michael was inspired by a keepsake from a colleague

Rare and exquisite gemstones are a vital component of Caratell’s pieces. Some of their designs are created around incredible stones, while others are cut especially to create the desired visual impact. Most of Caratell’s clients are ardent gem connoisseurs and art lovers. “They come to us to create pieces with colour that offers different moods and emotions to underpin the design,” says Michael. “As I work on each design, I tend to add colour if I feel the absence of certain shades makes the design feel incomplete.”

Michael’s passion is directed towards creating pieces with moving parts that invite the wearer to treat the jewellery as a dynamic accessory. “The components encourage a playful relationship with each piece, instilling joy and excitement to everyday life.”

Childhood memories and nostalgia seem to be a strong design impetus for Michael. In Embroidery of Love, he was inspired by a double-sided embroidery keepsake from a colleague from Suzhou. Michael has interpreted the gift in a contemporary manner using a double layer of floral filigree in matte-black rhodium-plated gold and then framed it in contrasting polished 18K yellow gold. He then introduced the wow factor with an oversized faceted gemstone. “While capturing the essence of the double-sided embroidery, the filigree also creates a contrast between the contemporary and the traditional, at the same time celebrates the amazing craftsmanship involved,” Michael explains.

Michael usually sketches his design concepts based on memories, from inspirations from places or architecture he has visited, or from nature, arts, and objects that catch his eye. “My sketch book goes everywhere with me and is an important tool in every design development as I keep going back to the very first sketches I made to inspire and expand the final piece.” During the production process for each, he often creates mock-ups or demonstration models of a piece and sometimes he is hands-on at the bench to demonstrate solutions to production challenges for complex designs.

In addition to clients in Singapore, the company has a growing following of clients overseas particularly in Hong Kong, Dubai, Indonesia, and China. “Over the next few years, we hope to expand sales to other markets in Asia and venture into Europe,” shares Michael.

With dreams of inspiring a new generation of jewellery aficionados, Caratell is offering their clients an opportunity to learn and understand jewellery through a “learning hub” experience at their studio in Singapore. “People who visit Caratell will not only be able to admire and appreciate exquisite jewellery, but will leave with a fresh understanding and knowledge of the intricacies of fine jewellery creation. We want to take them behind the scenes and above the clouds to a totally new jewellery experience.”