Sometimes referred to as the “drama queen” of New York’s jewellery scene, Lynn Ban loves provocative designs. The Singapore-born, US-based designer has garnered an impressive celebrity clientele in just over five years.
Among the favourite pieces from her latest Omber collection are bold multi-strand ear cuffs that sit in the hollow of the ear and loop over and below the lobe. Each strand is set with deep blue sapphires and tsavorites, their vivid colours highlighted by black rhodium. The collection’s pièce de résistance is a pink sapphire and black rhodium snake that slithers its way between thumb and index finger onto the wearer’s hand. The lower part of the serpent’s body crosses the inner palm and ends with a twist in the tail on the ring finger.
Until the launch of Ombre, Ban used the contrasts of black and white to highlight her bold themes. “I love the dramatic contrast of black and white. But as an artist, I felt challenged to use colour, and approach it in a way that still kept the jewellery in the dark, dramatic aesthetic of my brand,” she confesses. She sets the intense colours of sapphires, rubies, and tsavorite garnets with colour gradation in black rhodium as a way to achieve the “almost-acid, psychedelic feel”.
Although Ban’s collections thrive on contrasts and over-the-top themes, the winning attitude of the brand lies in its underlying design restraint and discipline, an attitude absorbed during her Art and Fashion History Studies, and her passion as a vintage jewellery collector. “My knowledge and fascination with the past enabled me to look to the future and create what I hope to be timeless designs that will still be relevant and modern 50 years from now,” Ban shares. It is this combination of fearless and fine designs that has won Ban an impressive celebrity following, which includes Rihanna, Beyoncé, Kate Moss, and Madonna. She recalls with pride and pleasure the defining moment when she knew her brand had arrived: “It was when Rihanna performed for the American Idol finale in 2011 wearing my jewellery.”
Jewellery has always been her passion. Nurtured by her mother, a GIA gemmologist, Ban grew up with gemstones and jewellery-making. “It was a natural progression for me to design and make my own jewellery.” Her design process always starts with an inspiration or mood board, influenced typically by fashion or film, art, architecture, or music. “Imagery is an important starting point. For example, Helmut Newton’s photography with its strong power-woman imagery has been an important inspiration, as well as the 1927 film noir science fiction film Metropolis, with its urban futurism.”
These early influences compelled her to push boundaries, seeking to be provocative and tongue-in-check with her themes. Her Smoking Lips pendant was considered scandalous when it was first launched. “People didn’t know that the design was inspired by the pop art of celebrated American artist Tom Wesselman. I actually had stores asking if I could make the pendant without the cigarette. Now, people get it, and it has become one of my signature pieces.”
Ban designs all her jewellery and then works with an expert team at her workshop in New York to produce the pieces. She prefers to work on silver and diamonds, and now also enjoys her adventure with coloured gemstones. Her first pieces included the Armor ring, interpreted as a sculptural shield of silver, as well as sculptural cuffs lined with a sliver of diamonds.
Her lament is that, too often, designers struggle with the pressure to be commercial to be saleable. “I think more than ever, you have to create your own vision and stand by it to stand out. I want my designs to provoke a reaction — good or bad is better than being mediocre or boring.”