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Brand to Know: A Japanese Label Making Quiet Jewellery

By Guan Tan

A Sanctuary Jewellery ring that's almost invisible when worn.
Sanctuary Jewellery
A Sanctuary Jewellery ring that's almost invisible when worn.

"I don't mean to sound cliché but when the devastating earthquake hit Japan in 2011, I realised our lives can end anytime," Mari Nakaizumi quips. It prompted her to take weekend classes in silversmithing to learn the art of jewellery-making. "If you have something you want to do, now is the time for it. That was when I decided to pursue my long-time dream of creating something related to fashion for a living." A year later, she started her own jewellery label called Sanctuary

Sanctuary JewelleryMari Nakaizumi's studio, where Sanctuary's jewellery pieces are made.
Mari Nakaizumi's studio, where Sanctuary's jewellery pieces are made.

Jewellery-making was Nakaizumi's childhood fascination. "Fashion and colourful crystals were two of my biggest interests since I was a small child," the 37-year-old laughs. She seems heartened to be able to return to her childhood and encapsulated this naive phase of life in the name, Sanctuary. Within this word is another facet to the spiritual arm of Japanese culture, "I have this idea that everyone has their own spiritual sanctuary within themselves, where we keep things to protect us from the outside world." To her, dainty little pieces of gold, silver and precious stones are amulets of quietness and calmness. 

Nakaizumi sources her materials online so that she has easy access to the globe. Take a recent batch of sunstones that she bought from Oregon for instance, Nakaizumi excitedly shared on Instagram, "I just had to buy up all the stock my supplier had, which was a bit of an investment for me but you don't see many Oregon sunstone beads of this quality so often!"

Sanctuary Jewellery

These raw materials also double up as Nakaizumi's source of creative stimulation. "My inspiration comes from the crystal itself." 

With the crystals and metals in hand, she immediately dives into prototyping. "I don't do many detailed sketches. Instead, I like to play with brass wires or sheets, make samples and leave them for a few days or a week to see if I really like it. If not, I start all over again." 

The resulting Sanctuary jewellery pieces are often in limited quantities, sometimes there's only one of each design. "I don't intentionally limit the number of pieces for each design but most crystals are one of a kind or available in limited quantities, thus it's just inevitable that they become one of a kind or limited edition," Nakaizumi explains. 

Sanctuary Jewellery

Although there's a Sanctuary Jewellery website, Instagram account and physical stockists, most of its customers come from online selling community, Etsy. The majority of these buyers are "in the U.S.". 

Nakaizumi thinks that it's the quietness, "joy, calmness, strength, or any positive feelings" in Sanctuary's jewellery pieces that draw these customers in. The earrings, pendants, and bracelets are so fine and delicate that they almost disappear into the wearer's outfit when worn. 

Sanctuary Jewellery37-year-old Mari Nakaizumi poses by her work station.
37-year-old Mari Nakaizumi poses by her work station.

"Simple" is the word Nakaizumi uses to describe her jewellery. They shouldn't eclipse the wearer's person but should always stay in the shadows. "I try to keep it simple."

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