Towards the end of our conversation, Singaporean jeweller Trixie Khong confesses, “I never wore jewellery growing up. Only recently – a few years ago – have I started putting them on.” It’s ironic, for the 28-year-old has been making jewellery for nine years now. She started making them off-hours in university when she was only 19.
It wasn’t long before she saw an urgent need to start a business. “I ended up with too much [jewellery] that I had to sell them off online,” she quips. Khong registered with Blogger but migrated to her current domain, byinviteonly.info a year later.
She meant for it to be a side project “to earn more allowance as a student”, and tried her hand at numerous industries – graphic design, retail, food and beverage, and banking. Having had a taste of the full monty, Khong decided to devote herself to jewellery-making. "I didn't want all that energy spent on something that [I couldn't] call my own."
Rose quartz set on gold-plated dangle earrings.
Khong was plugging a gap in the local jewellery landscape back then. She departed from the prevailing mass-production model and assembled all of her jewellery in-house.
Central to her designs is the kaleidoscopic spectrum of gemstones. For now, she pivots around semi-precious stones – Amethyst from Brazil, Moonstone from India, and Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan. Khong was quick to shed light on the industry – every region possesses an assortment of gemstones. To her, it's problematic to assign any stone to an exemplary single origin.
Solar quartz set on a gold-plated necklace.
Most of Khong's jewellery are gold, rose-gold or silver-plated, which tarnishes rapidly in Singapore's humidity. "One solution was to switch to gold-filled chains, or electroplate a thicker gold plating," Khong considers. Either way would cost five to ten times more, which meant higher retail prices. "That was not what we [wanted]...and we thought if you can apply nail polish to chains to prevent contact for allergies, you can create a coating."
For a year, Khong carried out trials with her supplier abroad but finally found an optimum blend and cost price. The sweat-proof blend is now registered and protected under her label. "It prevents the plated chains...from tarnishing," and is safe for hyperallergic skin types. Khong's team has been trying out this series of sweat-proof jewellery extensively prior to the launch. She eagerly adds, "We just launched it in 2017 and we've been receiving really good feedback from our customers."
Chalcedony set on gold-plated dangle earrings.
Mechanics aside, Khong reminds us of the pressing reason behind what she does – jewellery pieces are trinkets of memories.
"Jewellery [has] the power to evoke feelings or emotions like scents do." When she was a child her maternal grandmother handed her a collection of pearls. A few weeks later her grandmother passed on. "I didn't see any use for them and never took them to heart because I wasn't into jewellery at that point. I can't even remember where they are now, and I would sometimes kick myself for that." Until now, whenever Khong catches sight of pearls, she is still reminded of her grandmother.
Pearl jewellery calls to Khong's memories of the times she spent with her grandmother, which could be the invisible strings that tugged her back to jewellery-making over the years. One wouldn't be able to unceasingly produce jewellery like Khong, unless she has a compelling reason to do so. She adds, "We are not close but I knew she loved me."
By Invite Only is available here.
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