Singapore-based vintage jewellery retailer breathes new life into timeless, exquisite creations
Vintage jewellery are undeniably intriguing. Rare and made with the highest level of craftsmanship, each piece tells a story. Owning vintage jewellery is akin to owning a piece of history. It’s surprising, though, that these pieces have traditionally been overlooked by Asian buyers. But one Singapore-based retailer is on a mission to change all that.
Brenda Kang is the owner and founder of Revival Vintage Jewels and Objects, Singapore’s first dedicated vintage jewellery and objects retailer. From a 1890s bamboo-inspired Japanese Shakudo gold bracelet to a 1950s diamond necklace by Cartier, Revival Jewels is breathing new life into vintage pieces from bygone eras.
Kang’s interest in jewellery goes back more than 20 years ago when she was working as a flight attendant. Her job allowed her to travel, often visiting museums in Europe and the US. “The jewellery I encountered was far more interesting and special than anything I saw in Singapore growing up,” recalls Kang. After six years of flying, she took a gemmology course with the GIA and later got offered a job as a junior teacher at GIA Thailand. In 1997, she moved to New York to work as a jewellery specialist at Christie’s, curating and auctioning off some of the world’s most important vintage jewellery.
Yellow sapphire and diamong Bear pin, VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
When Kang moved back to Singapore in 2012, she felt there was a lack of fine and collectible vintage jewellery for sale in Asia. The following year she launched Revival as a pop-up store at luxury emporium Malmaison by The Hour Glass. Five years on, Kang has seen a rising demand for vintage jewellery in Asia, particularly from the younger consumers who see it as both investment and wearable art.
In a sea of retailers focused on mass-produced items, Revival Jewels celebrates the rare and timeless
In a sea of retailers focused on mass-produced items, Revival celebrates the rare and the timeless. “Vintage jewellery are items that stand the test of time. Someone may inherit a second-hand piece of jewellery and will want to take it apart and re-make it into something different because it’s nothing special or may be out of fashion. With vintage jewellery, it’s just beautiful and wearable and you wouldn’t want to change anything about it.”
Revival is still the only showroom in Singapore dedicated to selling collectible, curated vintage jewellery. “There are less than a handful of options in all of Asia at the same level. We offer rare iconic pieces from top jewellery brands, which you won’t just keep in the safe as they can be worn every day.”
Diamond brooch, HENRI PIQUE
Diamond detachable earrings, BUCCELLATI
Kang meticulously sources her pieces in Europe and the US, from private collectors, small auction houses, and reputable dealers. With trained eyes, she can easily identify the item’s style, influence, or period from which the jewellery came from. “Generally, Chinese styles feature jades, pearls, and feathers from exotic birds. Gems were mostly sourced locally, showing the stature of a noble,” she enumerates. “More important Western jewellery gems and diamond pieces were usually sourced for nobility and royalty.”
As for her favourite pieces, Kang shares two of her sentimental finds, which she had bought in her early days before she started Revival. The first one is an antique gold and gem-set pocket watch, circa mid-19th century. “It was possibly made in Europe for an Indian royalty. It was one of the first pieces I bought and it has brought me luck.” The second item is an Art Deco diamond and platinum bar brooch, circa 1925, which she has sold to a regular client.
For the novice vintage jewellery buyers, Kang shares some advice: See as much as you can. Only by looking and holding the jewellery in your hands you’ll have a feel of the overall condition of the items. Read up on the history of various stylistic periods and brands — ‘Understanding Jewellery’ by David Bennett and Daniela Mascietti is a good book to start with. One must also visit museums whenever possible. And above all else, passion will go a long way.