With 30 years of experience in the industry, Esther Ho is well-known in the local jewellery scene. The Founder and Managing Director of Zenith Affair has turned her travels to exciting expeditions, searching for gems that are of the finest design and quality — to be curated and presented to an exclusive Southeast Asian clientele. Launched in 2005, Zenith Affair is Ho’s jewellery consultancy and event management company that hosts private events and provide intimate jewellery consultation sessions for buyers. SolitaireLuxe sits down with Ho in her boutique, Jocalia by Zenith Affair, at Raffles Arcade Singapore as she shares tips on personal style, jewellery selection, and making the best first impression.
When you think of jewellery, what are the first three things that come to mind?
It’s usually about what I want to wear. I would start off with the earrings because I believe that for every woman, the first impression made is based on her face. The right pair of earrings complements her face. For example, personally, I wouldn’t wear a round pair of earrings as I have a round face shape. It doesn’t look good on me. I will prefer something small and dangling to balance up the look.
The second most important thing to me is the brooch. I like brooches because they are pieces that can speak on their own and they’re easy to wear — especially for working women or women who are in the jewellery business, like me.
Another item that would come to mind is the bracelet. I would always wear a bracelet, no matter what. I rarely wear rings as it is hard for me to work, to draw or sketch. I tend to easily lose the pieces whenever I take them off when I work.
What do you first look out for when selecting jewellery? How is it different when choosing for yourself and when curating for Zenith Affair?
The first thing I’ll look out for is design. I have to know what designs are trending and suitable when I’m buying — be it for myself or my clients. There is no difference when buying for myself and curating for Zenith Affair. You would want to buy things you like before you actually want to sell it to your client.
Yet it can still be a hit and miss scenario. Sometimes, certain pieces might not sell well, and I would wonder whether I do not have good taste. But in the next month or so, I would be selling the pieces. I could wear a piece out for lunch and if a client sees and likes it, they would just buy it from me. I realise it’s all about timing, whether a trend would come and go.
Describe your personal style, and what are the most important reasons for your preference?
I’m quite versatile when it comes to style. I have days where I wear very straightforward, clean-cut dresses. And I have days where I can also be very funky in style. I’m a big fan of Japanese labels such as Issey Miyake and Comme des Garcons.
I really like bright-coloured clothing, because of age and my colour complexion. Lime green, orange, and bright yellow are colours that not many can wear, but somehow I can carry them off very well.
When it comes to serious meetings, I tone down the colours because clients may find them too loud. But I’ll have subtle bright colour touches like pink nails. Accessories are very important to me to complement my versatile style.
Could you describe your process when styling for busy, hectic days? And how is it different on days you go out to wind down?
I wouldn’t think I have very hectic days, but yes I do have back-to-back meetings very often. My job, ultimately, is about dressing well. So I usually make sure I’m in a day-to-night wear, always ready to party (laughs). Dressing up is always easier, as I’m not one to dress down. When I wind down, a simple accessory should at least be worn. I see it as a form of mannerism.
Do you collect jewellery?
I do not collect jewellery. I rarely go out with the purpose to purchase a piece for myself. Most of the pieces I own are bought when I stumble upon them while I’m working. It’s just a process for me. The pieces I buy are mostly one-of-a-kind.
What was the first piece that you bought?
My first piece was a 30-pointer diamond ring that I bought 30 years ago.
Being part of the industry, how has that shaped your personal style?
Being neat and presentable has become very important to me. And I always make sure to wear a pair of earrings even on the weekends at least a pair of studs. If not, I’d feel really naked and bare.
Do you have rare or exotic pieces you would like to share?
All of my pieces are actually very rare (laughs). From my recent curation, all the pieces by this brand, Roberto Tucci, are very fascinating to me. It is the workmanship that puts me in awe. The way the gems are set is so unique, and it is very rare to find such meticulous French workmanship. I don’t remember finding any designers or brands who possess such thorough workmanship in this day and age. So when I find someone who does such meticulous craft that can only be found 30 years ago, it makes me really happy.
What do your customers mostly look for when selecting jewellery?
It depends. If it’s event-based, price point is first and foremost. They are slightly more impulsive, so they’d look at the price first and if it’s suitable, they’ll purchase the piece right away.
If it’s by appointment, they usually already have something in mind. They already know what kind of stone and design they want. They would leave the execution to us, and once in the boutique, they’d be looking at the pieces they visualise.
What is your advice for new customers who wish to purchase jewellery for the first time?
Most of my customers are usually very used to buying jewellery. But for cases like buying a piece for their children, I would advise to ask their children to come down and choose the pieces for themselves. Jewellery is very personal. It’s important that they choose according to their own taste. My first question for them would be what they are actually looking for. If they are looking for a particular stone, I would narrow some selections. I make it a point to educate my customers, so that they know their stones and what they are purchasing. zenithaffair.com.sg