You know you have made it as a brand when the Queen of England has been seen wearing your creation not once, but more than a dozen times. Such is the case of Singapore Peranakan jewellery brand Foundation Jewellers, whose creation, the Peranakan Diamond Jubilee pin — a present to Queen Elizabeth by President Tony Tan on behalf of Singapore for the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 — seems to be one of the Queen’s favourite brooches.
The Queen was once again spotted wearing the Peranakan brooch, this time during a recent visit to the Science Museum in London. Wearing a tangerine coat and hat, the Queen picked the perfect accessory for the day: a simple pair of black gloves, a classic black handbag, and the intricate Foundation Jewellers’ Diamond Jubilee brooch. “Ten years ago, I wouldn’t be able to imagine the Queen of England, wearing our brooch,” quips Thomis Kwan, designer and second-generation owner of Foundation Jewellers. “It’s almost like a miracle!”
Founded in 1976, the brand is known today for its impressive traditional and contemporary Peranakan fine jewellery. Twenty years later since the company started, Thomis — inspired by one of his craftsmen who was able to perfectly restore a Peranakan heirloom piece — decided to increase the company’s creation of fine Peranakan jewellery, a brave move considering that in the early ‘90s, Singapore jewellery buyers favoured white gold and white diamonds. With the help of his wife, Caroline Tay, Thomis tirelessly worked on promoting awareness on the Peranakan culture by creating one-of-a-kind Peranakan fine jewellery.
A representation of the Straits-Chinese heritage, which began way back in the 1880, Peranakan jewellery is crafted in combination of Chinese, Malaysia, and Indo-European styles, usually in gold and diamonds. “We tried to revive the declining traditional art of Peranakan Jewellery,” says Thomis. Through their creations, Foundation Jewellers aims to revamp and rejuvenate this traditional craft to give it a fresh look that will appeal to both the older and younger generations.
“Every piece of our jewellery is uniquely handcrafted, which, depending on the size and intricacy of design, usually takes months to produce,” adds Thomis. By using rose-cut and round-brilliant diamonds and coloured gemstones such as corals and emeralds in their collections, Thomis says their Peranakan pieces have taken on a new, contemporary look. “We make our jewellery more versatile. For example, a brooch can be worn as a pendant, or a hairpin can be converted into a brooch or a twisted ring.”
Their latest Flower & Bee brooch features carved corals shaped into elegant roses with 18K gold leaves accented by brilliant cut diamonds and emerald drops. Meanwhile, the Peacock brooch is so detailed it almost comes alive in 18K gold, brilliant-cut diamonds, and green garnets.
Peranakan jewellery is usually eclectic, its design complex, and its charms ornamental. To enjoy a Peranakan jewellery is to understand the Peranakan culture. “It’s not just about the jewellery, but also about the Peranakan art and culture. We are proud of our products, as they are 100% handcrafted and locally made, something that we always want to share with the world,” concludes Thomis.