JEWEL TALK WITH SANDRA CHANG
On her love for art deco and vintage jewellery
Two things come to mind upon meeting Sandra Chang for the first time: calm and grace. The director of Raffles Yacht and ambassador of the International Seakeepers Society in Asia credits her serene composure to over 20 years of yoga, and her innate sense of style to her lifelong love affair with fashion and jewellery.
Although she refuses to call herself a jewellery collector — “I’m just someone who is passionate about jewellery,” she says — Chang’s ‘passion’ has come a long way. “It all started with a simple diamond pendant, a gift from my parents when I was 18,” she shares. “Marvellously enough, as I went on with my collection, everything seemed to fall into place. They all formed a pattern. They turned out well.”
Partial to art deco and vintage jewellery from Cartier, Chang mixes them up with contemporary pieces from Graff, de Grisogono and her latest favourite, Pasquale Bruni, among others, and makes the look her own.
No matter how busy she gets, especially with her role in the Seakeepers Society — a non-profit organisation promoting research, education, restoration, and protection of the world’s oceans — Chang makes sure she never misses out on important pieces. “I go to auction houses in London. I also have someone there to help me look out for limited-edition art deco pieces.”
Ironically, for someone who doesn’t have pierced ears, she specifically loves earrings.
Over tea, Chang lets us in on some personal styling tips and major jewellery love.
Do you prefer diamonds or coloured gemstones?
First and foremost, I am a diamond girl. Always. I like sapphires and rubies second.
How would you describe your personal style?
I go for a look that’s elegant and glamorous. I love Christian Dior vintage – ‘50s and ‘60s. For me, this look is the epitome of grace and elegance. I don’t like an over-fussy look. I like it clean and classy with a structure. A beautifully cut garment with a structure always appeals to me. I go for designers like Azzedine Alaia, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta, and Elie Saab, among others. I love the workmanship and the originality of their designs.
When dressing up, what comes first, the jewellery or the dress?
I always go for the dress first.
How do you decide which jewellery to use for a particular dress?
I rely on my sense of balance and aesthetics. When I choose a certain piece for a particular look, I just know that I will feel happy about it. I’m not the type who will check and adjust the pieces every few minutes. I hate that. That’s why I go for beautifully cut garments and beautifully done jewellery. When you put them on, they sit well on you, and then you forget about them and you enjoy the event.
What got you started in jewellery collection?
Seeing my beautiful mother dress up started my fascination with jewellery. I always saw how jewellery as an accessory enhanced an outfit so well.
What type of jewellery do you like to collect?
I know the style that suits me. It cannot be too dainty or too arty, but it has to be dramatic. I like to buy contemporary jewellery that has individual character and style that match my personality.
What are your favourite pieces?
I have pieces from Cartier and Graff that I wear constantly. I also love vintage jewellery, particularly from the Art Deco period. The exquisite craftsmanship and original designs of that era are breathtakingly beautiful. They still suit the fashions of today very well.
When did your love for Art Deco start?
I spotted an art deco necklace from a vintage jeweller in Switzerland. I immediately fell in love with the piece. From then on my love for art deco started, and my collection grew and expanded from that piece.
What do you look for when selecting jewellery to collect?
I look for pieces that will complete and complement my collection. I’m also on the look out for new and exciting creations.
How about watches?
I’m not watch-mad. Once in a while, I would fall in love with a piece, mostly from Cartier. I always go for jewellery watches. For the day, I go for a tank watch. At night, if I’m in an evening gown, I don’t wear a watch. For cocktails, I wouldn’t mind wearing a dress watch.
What satisfaction do you get from collecting jewellery?
I get personal pleasure knowing how much happiness the pieces have brought me every time I put them on. I also treasure the joy of knowing I can pass them on to my daughter, Tara. She gets great happiness from beautiful jewellery.
What would be your advice to a first-time jewellery collector?
Collecting jewellery is very private and personal. Some people buy jewellery with the word investment in mind. I don’t believe in that at all, because if you do, then it becomes business. I’m not against it, but you have to have a different mindset because it’s not easy to combine the two. It’s the same with art. You must know how to curate it so you can have a particular theme across the board. It must also fit your lifestyle. Otherwise, it will all end up lying in the cupboard and not used. Jewellery must be worn and enjoyed.
When you first start a collection, you might not have a goal in mind. It may just start with a love affair — you fall in love with a piece, and you enjoy the beauty of the pieces. When you go along in life, when you are more evolved and mature, your taste will be further refined to know exactly what appeals to you. But always, follow your heart.
Would you reset a vintage piece to fit your style?
I would never touch or alter a vintage piece. I honour and respect the craftsmanship behind a vintage piece. I buy it because I like it as it is. If I had reservations I wouldn’t buy it. The vintage pieces are not to be messed with, especially the pedigree pieces.
Any tips for safekeeping and refitting?
Jewellery has to be refitted to suit you. Just like a dress, you can buy it off the counter, but you need to have it adjusted if it doesn’t fit you.
Take care of your jewellery when taking them off and storing them. Always put them in padded pouches or boxes. Never ever spray perfume once you already put your jewellery on. Get them regularly cleaned, it makes a lot of difference. Last but not least, bring them back to the jewellery store you bought them from to make sure that they are in good form.