Singapore – A great place to learn and practice jewellery design

By Tay Kunming

With a myriad of courses available out there in the marketplace, selecting a course that’s both financially rewarding and beneficial to the local arts and culture scene can be a challenge. Why not learn jewellery design?

As a jewellery designer and craftsman, I’ve noticed that there’s one type of people who are willing to spend on gemstones: the ultra-wealthy foreigners, including the Chinese and Burmese, whose population exceeds one billion and 55 million, respectively. And with more than one million Chinese with assets worth over $1.5 million, the number of rich Chinese is increasing rapidly, according to China Business Review’s report ‘Understanding Chinese Consumers’.

Furthermore, Singapore’s positioning as a world-class tourist hub helps to boost tourist spending, hence learning and practicing jewellery design is ideal.

This year, I was invited to be part of the judging panel for The Singapore Jewellery Design Awards. Looking at the certificate of appreciation that was awarded to me by the design council, I am reminded that as a craftsman, I have to do my part to create more opportunities for the next generation, so they’ll have the right exposure. And as I was speaking to a group of 17 students from Raffles Design Institute the museum partnered to launch an up and coming project titled ‘Gems for Generation’ on 10 November, I am certain that I ought to do more to create a conducive environment for learning and sharing for our next generation.

But for now, here are a handful of practical tips I have to guide jewellery designers and aspiring jewellery designers.

  1. Build good relationships with your craftsmen. Without skilled workmanship, your impressive design is nothing; it’d would be very difficult to create a good design – unless you are able to design and craft gems.
  1. Cultivate your presentation skills. As a jewellery designer, you will need good presentation skills and great ideas so you can sell them to your clients. Unlike a classroom setting where you are required to stand in front of your class to present your concept, you are likely to be sitting next to a prospective buyer, surrounded by gemstones and, possibly, coffee, explaining your design while selecting stones to place on his/her hand. Again, without these skills, your gemstones will be left sitting on your shelves collecting dust.
  1. Open your mind to greater opportunities. In my personal opinion, Singapore is a relatively small market, so don’t be discouraged if your designs are not appreciated by your own people. Instead, open yourself to global opportunities. For instance, selling your designs to the Burmese. With a burgeoning 55 million population, it isn’t hard to find a window of opportunity. Start by researching on a market that you think (and know) will appreciate your works and find all means and ways to penetrate.

sjda_certificate-of-appreciationHere’s something I’d like to share and to encourage all readers (above)!

Exhibition: Galaxy of Glowing Gems

An Exhibition of a Galaxy of Glowing Gems

As part of the 2016 Singapore Night Festival showcase, The Gem Museum and Far East Gems and Jewellery put together a special exhibition of gemstones and minerals that come to live in the dark!

Here’s what we did: We turned off all the lights in the museum, turning the entire space into a wonderland of glowing gemstones.

So nice, they are glowing gems!

amber under UV light exhibitionAn Amber fluoresces blue under long wave UV light.


Petroleum in Quartz from Pakistan. The petroleum flouresces yellow!


A beautiful pieces of spinel in marble matrix. The spinel fluoresces red under long wave UV light.

For visitors to the museum, it was a sight to behold. And I was delighted to see more than a hundred people attended the event – many are at the museum for their first time! On display were over 200 gemstones and mineral samples from Far East Gem Institute’s collection that showcases the natural fluorescent and properties of the gems, crystals and minerals. Additionally, we have put together a special presentation explaining how and why certain types of gemstones and minerals react under specific lighting conditions that dramatically transform the way they look.

Some interesting facts about glowing gemstones

  • Only about 15% of minerals have a fluorescence that is visible to people and some specimens of those minerals will not fluoresce.
  • Fluorescence usually occurs when specific impurities known as “activators” are present within the mineral.
  • These activators are typically cations of metals such as: tungsten, molybdenum, lead, boron, titanium, manganese, uranium and chromium.
  • Rare earth elements such as europium, terbium, dysprosium, and yttrium are also known to contribute to the fluorescence phenomenon.
  • Fluorescence can also be caused by crystal structural defects or organic impurities.

  • In addition to “activator” impurities, some impurities have a dampening effect on fluorescence.
  • If iron or copper are present as impurities, they can reduce or eliminate fluorescence.
  • Furthermore, if the activator mineral is present in large amounts, that can reduce the fluorescence effect.

  • Most minerals fluoresce a single colour. Other minerals have multiple colours of fluorescence.
  • Calcite has been known to fluoresce red, blue, white, pink, green and orange.

Pic: Calcite fluorescing in different colours.

  • Some minerals are known to exhibit multiple colours of fluorescence in a single specimen.
  • These can be banded minerals that exhibit several stages of growth from parent solutions with changing compositions.

Pic: Banded rock materials that fluoresces different colours under UV.

An important aspect…

  • In the early 1900s, many diamond merchants would seek out stones with a strong blue fluorescence.
  • They believed that these stones would appear more colourless (less yellow) when viewed in light with a high ultraviolet content.
  • This eventually resulted in controlled lighting conditions for colour grading diamonds.

Getting ready for next year!

This year, we had a successful exhibition on a Galaxy of Glowing Gemstones. Coming up next year, Singapore 10th Night Festival 2017, we are going to exhibit the theme of Galaxy of Moons and Stars! Do keep a lookout!

Pic: Star Sapphire