The Bespoke Experience with Calla Lily – Constellations Turquoise Necklace
About Calla Lily
From restyling gemmed heirlooms that have been passed down through the generations, to creating one-of-a-kind pieces that will in turn be bestowed, Calla Lily Fine Jewellers’ designs narrate cherished tales through precious gemstones.
Calla Lily is Emily’s first independent brand since she strode onto Singapore’s bespoke jewellery scene a decade ago following stints with internationally renowned designers like Jimmy Choo Couture and Kara Ross New York.
“We differentiate ourselves by having a fun and uninhibited take on luxury. We create statement pieces that can be worn every day, rather than only at cocktail parties. Our clients also value our ability to suggest designs like a jewellery stylist. We focus on giving advice and educating, always co-creating with our clients.”
– Emily Tan
As a designer, Emily, took her first steps into fashion in footwear. She joined Jimmy Choo Couture in London after graduating from the London College of Fashion. Following a stint with Marni in Italy, she moved to Vietnam to work on costume jewellery. But her desire, really, was to create pieces that last. That’s why she moved back to Singapore and began designing fine bespoke jewellery and working with gems. She went to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to study, test and identify gemstones, and was drawn to the beauty of gemstones. Coloured gems weren’t as easy to find in Singapore, and she was drawn to their uniqueness. She never looked back.
Why do you feel it’s very special to have something custom made?
A custom-made jewellery piece allows you to tell a personal story. Whether it be a memorable event, special relationship, or milestone in your life, you can express this through a co-created piece with our designers. Your intentions can be fully expressed, as every detail of the design, and every gemstone can be curated to create your dream piece.
We love to work together with our clients, they tell us their stories, but also want the designer’s expert input in terms of style, setting and craft. For example with the featured customised necklace, we suggested the turquoise beads to introduce different possibilities. Our client loved the idea, so we specially sourced the right beads just for this piece.
When people come to us, they are looking for something entirely original. Sometimes, they have ideas about a design – they want a spinning ring, or to create a piece in memory of a beloved cat. Or they might not have a definitive idea but choose instead to share details about their style or lifestyle, the things they like and those they don’t. That sparks the conversation. They might even just start with a gemstone and allow that to steer a design.
There are clients who leave it to us, but even when the starting point is ours, whether a time period like art deco or vintage, a style like art nouveau or classic, or designs we’ve done before, the process is never one-way. We don’t force the design in any specific direction or trend. We’re more like design therapists. We tune into what is said, what is unsaid, and even body language. You give more clues than you think. That’s what makes the design and customisation process interesting for us.
Our customised necklaces can be made to be modular, whereby a section can be detached to go from a neck piece to a choker at just the right lengths to suit the client’s size. We can even make it whereby a brooch or earrings can be detached out from the necklace and worn, while the shortened necklace can still be worn as well. It’s transformative jewellery.
We think jewellery should be fun and playful, yet still sophisticated. So for us, creating modular and transformable pieces is an important criteria. We like pieces which can evolve and adapt, and sometimes we’re experimenting.
We may create earring studs first and then be inspired to design the dangles months later, and be pleasantly surprised with the final result. Our clients love this, as their jewellery never gets old. A piece from a year ago, may be transformed by a new jacket, and it feels like a brand new look.
With a bespoke piece, another possibility is to repurpose old jewellery that may have been handed down but doesn’t suit your style. We can reuse the gemstones and trade-in the gold, and create something you love to wear. It’s a form of recycling and gives the jewellery new life.
All this is possible with a custom made jewellery piece, you can’t buy this off the shelve!
For example, one of our favourite pieces is a Remembrance Ring and Brooch, created to cherish the memory of, Hibiki, our client’s beloved munchkin cat that had passed away. Co-creating with our client, we designed a double-shank cat ring with diamonds the same greyish brown as Hibiki’s coat, and a green-beryl centre stone the same soft green as his eyes.
Recently, we created a special engagement ring for our client who wanted to propose to his beloved girlfriend. His grandmother had gifted him three gems that were dear to her, and he chose to show his love for his partner by using these gems to create the ring. The piece was further personalised with the ring curvature forming an eternity loop to symbolise his devotion to his partner, and he chose a gradient of pink Sapphires according to the colours she loves.
With a bespoke piece the challenge is reflecting the client’s unique persona and eccentricities while, as a designer, providing your recommendations and advice to make sure the piece turns out stunning.
With every bespoke design, we enter new challenges and push our creative boundaries, which is indeed one of our greatest desires as artists, to breakthrough and keep evolving.
It’s an organic growth with my clients as we build their collection together, from simple classic designs, to eventually more complex pieces. Overtime, better understanding their style perspectives, to develop various looks that are inherently their own.
The ultimate joy, is seeing their faces light up when they collect their one-of-a-kind piece! Their stories and affections are what we’re after!
What’s needed to make a bespoke piece at Calla Lily?
People’s ideas, people’s stories, people’s experiences, they all give us inspiration. What we’re looking for is your heart’s desire. Our process always starts with a conversation – a client shares their story, their likes and dislikes, and we’ll curate gemstones and create sketches until something takes shape. We’ll tweak the sketches, and come out with several detailed design options, each with unique features, for our clients to ponder over. We’ll discuss the designs over tea, coffee, and chocolates.
Then we’ll start to work with our craftsmen on the 3D computer model, making adjustments to get it perfect before the gold is casted. For complex pieces, our clients may visit us to view and try on the wax moulds, or casings, to make sure everything fits well and is coming along in line with their wishes. Once the piece is polished and the gems are set its ready for collection!
The process is collaborative with the client from start to end, and we don’t rush it. That’s why it’s hard to say exactly how long a piece takes – it depends on the complexity. The process can take anywhere between two months and a year.