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Brand to Know: A Jewellery Label That Began With a Rusty Signet Ring

By Bianca Husodo

A Norwegian brand committed to designing “contemporary classics”, Tom Wood was founded in 2013 as a jewellery label before it expanded into accessories and apparel.
 
Tom Wood
A Norwegian brand committed to designing “contemporary classics”, Tom Wood was founded in 2013 as a jewellery label before it expanded into accessories and apparel.

The first-ever jewellery Mona Jensen found herself attached to was a men’s signet ring. “It was very oxidised and huge, shaped like a shield with a little embellishment. It was in men’s size,” recalls Jensen. “But it was the first ring I ever cared about.” It was, in fact, her wedding ring.

In 2013, three years after her nuptials, the Norwegian marketing director-turned-designer started her jewellery label with her husband Morten Isachsen, naming it Tom Wood. “It’s a fictive male persona. This brand isn’t about me,” Jensen says sheepishly. Though that may be true now — Tom Wood has since become one of the rare lifestyle brands to successfully emerge from Norway, having expanded its product offering with homeware and apparel of which ease is quintessentially Scandinavian — its design roots, however, can be traced back to Jensen’s first prized possession: her wedding signet ring.

When Isachsen, Jensen’s then-fiancé, proposed, they went on a hunt for their wedding band, scouring Oslo’s jewellery shops only to come back empty-handed. Their search was futile. Jensen could not find anything she liked, having never really liked the idea of accessorising beyond strapping on a watch. Isachsen then remembered having a vintage silver signet ring in his old drawer. He rummaged through the cabinet and showed it to Jensen.

Tung PhamMona Jensen, the founder of Tom Wood.
Mona Jensen, the founder of Tom Wood.

It was love at first sight. The simplicity and time-shaped rawness of the found object resonated with Jensen. The couple polished and resized the ring for Jensen’s finger, engraving their wedding date on its exterior.

“[At that moment,] I decided to make jewellery before I even had any knowledge about jewellery,” she says. “I wanted to shape something that I could wear myself.”

Jensen then worked on the label as a passion project for several years before biting the bullet. She left her full-time job for Tom Wood, and in the process, roped in her husband as her business partner. Tom Wood’s debut collection was a confection of a dozen signet rings, inspired by the serendipitous find that started it all. The rings’ smooth tabletop silhouette is now a signature of the label.

Tung PhamThe new May Ring diamond ring is made in sterling silver and then top-plated with solid gold and 32 handset white diamonds and a precious stone.
The new May Ring diamond ring is made in sterling silver and then top-plated with solid gold and 32 handset white diamonds and a precious stone.
Tung PhamJensen wears her own designs. Worn here: Tom Wood’s zirconia-festooned silver ear cuff paire with a smaller gold-plated one.
Jensen wears her own designs. Worn here: Tom Wood’s zirconia-festooned silver ear cuff paire with a smaller gold-plated one.

To Jensen, functionality is fundamental. She grew up in Stord, a coastal island with a population of 18,000, and lived in a hundred-year-old house that used to be an early 20th-century bakery. Her bedroom faced the sea (“If I close my eyes, I can still smell and hear the sea.”). The small-town lifestyle that adapted to the roughness of the island’s nature — the perpetual howling wind and stormy climate — is ingrained within Jensen, and ultimately, her designs.

“We get dressed because it’s cold outside. We’re not too fancy,” says Jensen, noting that her pieces are rarely ornamental. The sterling silver rings are often sleek and visually unobtrusive; some inlaid with precious stones — onyx, tiger eye, opal, malachite — in subdued hues. Earrings, necklaces and bracelets, too, are understated. It’s only upon closer inspection that the much-considered details are revealed. The pieces are, after all, made to fit into the wearer’s everyday life. “You can maybe have them on for work, but when you have to pick up your child from kindergarten and then go straight to somewhere else afterwards, they don’t hold you back,” illustrates Jensen.

Tung Pham
 
Tung PhamThe label’s chunky bracelets can be linked together to form a necklace.
The label’s chunky bracelets can be linked together to form a necklace.

A jewellery’s distinctive weight, however, is also of importance. “I got very connected to my wedding signet ring because I didn't need to see it to know that I have it on. I could feel its heaviness,” she explains. “It naturally became a part of me.” To her, it’s the oft-overlooked glue that binds the relationship of its wearer to the piece itself. And it was perhaps this underlying viscera that led to the more recent chunkier accessories that ensued: chain-link anklets and bracelets to elliptical ear cuffs that aren’t designed for specific genders.

“I don’t care about genders myself,” says Jensen. “I think the act of putting on jewellery, the way you choose, it should tell something more about you as a person.”

Tom Wood is available at Dover Street Market Singapore.