Speaking to Choo Yilin, who founded her eponymous jewellery line in 2009, it’s clear how passionately she feels about her creations, in particular jade, a heritage stone that the brand has become synonymous with.
Jewellery design wasn’t always in the cards for Choo, who has a background in psychology and worked as a political analyst previously, nor was she always fascinated by jade. But it was almost as if it was written in the stars, as she shares that her Chinese name, Yilin, actually means moving towards beautiful jade. “It was prescient, my grandpa was a genius”, Yilin says of her grandfather who named her.
“One of the most important things that we do is modernizing jade, making it relevant”, says Choo. This is achieved by weaving stories of Asian heritage and conservation into the designs. With evocative motifs such as bamboo, sakura flowers and Peranakan-inspired designs, the pieces are more than just beautiful creations, they are also creating a strong social impact. “When we think through our design process, it’s always going back to what stories are culturally significant for us as East Asian women.”
In fact, becoming the go-to high jewellery brand for Asian women the world over is something that Choo ultimately envisions for her brand. “Whenever you think about fine jewellery brands, there’s nothing that really speaks to Asian women and their heritage, and I want to change that. We really hope that Choo Yilin will be the first Asian global luxury brand such that Asian women all over the world, when they go and choose their jewellery for very important occasions, will think of Choo Yilin rather than just Tiffany and Bulgari and Cartier, because of the emotional connection,” says Choo.
After chatting with Choo about the story behind her brand and its signature heritage stone, here are three interesting facts about jade that I discovered:
1. Most gemologists agree that jade is the most complex stone out there. “It’s actually a stone that’s shrouded in a lot of mysticism” says Choo. She’s been studying the stone for years and still finds herself learning something new everyday. Even her ‘sifu’, Tay Thye Sun, who’s studied jade for 40 years doesn’t count himself an expert. It’s easy to see why Choo is so fascinated by jade. The mysterious nature of the stone coupled with its strong heritage make the stone all the more appealing.
2. The value factors of jade are typically colour, clarity, translucency and whether it’s been treated or enhanced in any way, however the traditional markers of what is valuable and what is not is actually eroding. Traditionally speaking, Imperial green, which is a dark apple green, is the most valuable shade of green on the value metrics. However, in recent times, shades like lavender jade have been valued higher. “We actually see lavender jade pieces being sold for a huge premium today, sometimes even more expensive than some of the Imperial green pieces. Ten years ago, no one would ever have predicted this sort of trend,” says Choo. In fact, her younger customers are breaking tradition and choosing lighter shades of jade despite the lower value. “I think people are becoming a lot more open-minded and a lot more confident. You might tell them that this (piece) is actually more valuable than that, but if they like that better, they would have no qualms picking that up.”
3. There are a handful of jade cutters in Singapore, but they are a dying breed and Choo is doing whatever she can to preserve the craft. She literally goes to the jade cutters’ houses to have tea with them to foster that relationship, because it’s their pride that she has to appeal to. “They don’t do it for the money,” says Choo.
Andrea Wong is YourSingapore’s Guest Editor who explored the #SingaporeHighLife and shared her experience with us. As a fashion stylist and former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Malaysia, Andrea knows how to enjoy the finer things in life.