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The Jewellery Designer Who Creates for the Modern Woman

By Lynette Kee

Courtesy of Shanya Amarasuriya“There’s powerful visual movement in the forms which speak of strength and elegance, something I always seek to strike a balance on, within myself and in my design work. In fact, my team and fiancé worked on an Art Deco style engagement ring for me in secret and I really think they got my style to a T! I also am inspired by more intricate forms like our Lovedrops collection, which sings a very different tune with curves and elaborate filigree-like details that could be seen as inspired from the era of Romanticism. We’re contemporary designers with an old-world soul — and I do think, a large part of that is due to our heritage and being a time-honoured brand.”
“There’s powerful visual movement in the forms which speak of strength and elegance, something I always seek to strike a balance on, within myself and in my design work. In fact, my team and fiancé worked on an Art Deco style engagement ring for me in secret and I really think they got my style to a T! I also am inspired by more intricate forms like our Lovedrops collection, which sings a very different tune with curves and elaborate filigree-like details that could be seen as inspired from the era of Romanticism. We’re contemporary designers with an old-world soul — and I do think, a large part of that is due to our heritage and being a time-honoured brand.”

“I definitely have a soft spot for bold, sleek and geometric designs inspired by the Art Deco era,” says Shanya Amarasuriya, the creative director of B.P. de Silva Jewellers, who cultivated an affinity with the movement during her time in New York. Amarasuriya moved to New York to further her studies in jewellery design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Surrounded by Art Deco skyscrapers in the two years of her education, Amarasuriya leaned artistically into the movement characterised not just by its geometric forms and novel materials, but an era of newfound liberties for women. It was also a period when feminine adornment evolved from shy baubles into modern statements of expression. The jewellery designer’s experience eventually led her to her calling: To design modern jewellery for likeminded strong women. “It affirmed what I had believed of myself since I was a child — I was made to design, and it’s been an endless passion since.”

As a child, Amarasuriya had always been drawn by the holographic spills of light in jewellery the way children gravitated to candies. She used to accompany her grandmother into jewellery shops and spend time observing artisans hunch over metals and diamonds, sawing, filing and hammering away. Upon her graduation in 2017, Amarasuriya returned to Singapore and joined B.P. de Silva Jewellers, a 148-year-old local jewellery brand, as a fifth generation creative scion. She spent a year working the grounds in operations and customer relations, which was fundamental in her mission to pivot the business into one offered customers a brand experience. Two years in, Amarasuriya has incorporated a touch of modernity into the heritage jewellery brand with geometric shapes and bold, architectural lines. But more importantly, she also moved it in the direction of sustainability and ethical mining in 2019, making it one of the first in Singapore to introduce Fairmined impact gold. “Jewellery can be my platform for change,” she says, “I didn’t want to just be part of the jewellery business for the sake of it.”

Courtesy of Shanya Amarasuriya
 

Left: “To me, the modern woman is a woman who doesn’t carry the weight of any stereotype of who she should be, but walks freely in her truth, with kindness and wisdom.”

Centre: “Nature, art, music and old poetry from my grandma [inspires me]. I’m a firm believer that there’s always inspiration around the bend. I love to spend hours in a park just by myself with a trusty notebook and pen as I sketch or write endlessly. It’s either that, or finding myself in a state of bliss at a hole in the wall bookstore like Basheer’s bookstore in Singapore or Spoonbill in Brooklyn discovering creative gems. That being said, there’s nothing quite like an open-hearted conversation to stir something within. Enjoying meaningful, authentic connections with people is a grand source of inspiration for me.”

Right: “When I have free time to myself, I usually pick something to do based on my mood. It could range from writing a letter, to swimming, to reading, to baking, to painting, to yoga, to sketching even!”

Courtesy of Shanya Amarasuriya
 

Left: “I’m blessed to be working with people I genuinely enjoy working with for a mission I believe in, so I am generally pretty motivated and always wake up with gratitude. To keep myself refreshed though, I explore creatively, with books especially. The latest one I’m on now is called “Artist’s Way”. I’m also a huge fan of an independent magazine called Hole & Corner which is centred on celebrating creativity and craftsmanship from all over the world. They do some solid interviews with artists of different disciplines that I always draw inspiration from.”

Right: “I always find myself always searching for a space with natural light. Be it at our atelier or at home, I’m usually near a big and bright window with a cup of tea, a tray of gemstones, my sketchpad, laptop and a vast variety of stationery (I have a [mild] addiction to pens). Having natural light is always important to me as I begin most designs with gemstones which I find best examined under natural light. It’s in the sunshine that I see the true beauty and lustre of the gemstone, and get inspired to sketch. I also like to have some light music in the background and our very own candle lit to set the atmosphere just right.”

Courtesy of Shanya Amarasuriya
 

“I don’t have just one muse per se, but I continue to be inspired very much by Maya Angelou as a person. From her poetry, to her sassy sense of humour, she’s very much like my grandmother that I miss dearly. My archi (Sinhalese name for grandmother) was a woman ahead of her time; independent, quick-witted and charming. She was and remains a big part of my life.”

Courtesy of Shanya Amarasuriya
 

Left: “Living and studying in the city gave me a lot of confidence in who I am and what skills I have. I had always been a jack of all trades growing up in Singapore, but in New York, I finally got to dive deep into gemmology, benchwork and design. Everything was very hands on and I had a chance to create with my very own hands fine jewellery and objects that started very simply from my imagination.”

Centre: “As of now, my favourite design is a work in progress. I’m working with one of our collaborators, Simone Heng, to make a lovely necklace for her mother who’s currently residing in Australia. The heartfelt story of their mother-daughter relationship and how it’s evolved was something that resonated with me deeply — not to mention the evolution of her mother herself. It’s stories like these that really remind me how meaningful it is to honour precious stories through fine keepsakes, and heirlooms in the making.”

Right: “I find good connection in conversation akin to looking at life through an endless kaleidoscope. There’s nothing like good company as you travel through thoughts together. I also find that my thoughts tend to unfold quite a fair bit when I’m doing written reflections. Come to think about it, that’s something that I used to do often during travel especially on flights; being plugged into some soothing tunes gives me unexpected moments of clarity and inspiration.”

 

Courtesy of Shanya Amarasuriya
 

“Being intentional is one of my personal life philosophies that I carry in my creative processes. It brings discipline to the artistic process for me as I’m someone whose mind is constantly in a space of imagination and creativity, so being mindful and intentional helps to frame the “why” from the get go, and becomes that bright north star for the whole team. Even now, as we conceptualise and prepare for our new atelier, we’re making choices based on the intention of creating a space centred around hospitality, well-being and human connection. We’ve had opportunities in spaces that would have been great for luxury retail, but we’re really looking for that extra special touch for the B.P de Silva experience.”

 

Courtesy of Shanya Amarasuriya
 

Left: “It always comes back to New York City. While Hollywood has painted itself to be a picture of glitz and awe — the big stuff — I will always look back on my years there with great fondness for even the smallest moments of human connection, no matter how fleeting. There was this instance in a cafe, when my cousin and I ended up chatting with two girls who were at the table next to ours, and before we knew it a couple hours had flown by. One of them even invited us to her apartment rooftop to hang out. I will never forget that night where we had the most stunning panoramic view of the whole city as we enjoyed some watermelons and chicken wings. We continued to chat the night away about city life, our dreams and family. The four of us still have a group chat today called “Watermelon”. From the conversations with buskers before catching the subway train to listening to artists share their souls during poetry nights, to the weekly chats with the Bodega owner during my grocery runs — New York City always felt like home.”

Centre: “I don’t think I have a favourite photograph of myself. But I do have a collection of favourite life moments, and this would be one of them: This is a photograph of me and one of my dearest friends, Grace, having a good heart-to-heart chat under the setting sun before dipping our toes in the ocean. Moments of honest human connection like this are gold to me.”

Right: “From the classic brews like English breakfast and earl grey, to teas that are more artisanal such as Taiwanese milk oolongs, or Japanese hojichas, or one of my favourites, the seasonal Dimbula Estate teas. I am someone who loves to collect tea. I’m actually working on a special blend with my tea connoisseur brother just for the B.P. de Silva Atelier. It’s inspired by our great-great-grandfather’s ritual of serving tea at jewellery appointments, and I’m excited to let our clients have a taste, hopefully by the end of 2020.”