Four years ago, Nazneen Aziz Samson, founder and designer of local jewellery label Pyar, made a trip to Bali. The island may be known for its beach resorts, but Samson discovered something else – a vibrant and time-honoured silversmithing industry.
"They had this from the time of the Majapahit empire. That's why Bali they have very good silver making, artisanal techniques," the 42-year-old explains. "Ubud is actually one of the places where you will see a lot of silversmiths."
As Samson delved deeper, she realised that the Balinese silversmithing industry had a profound focus on sustainability and ethics. It coincided with her long-time desire to create her own label – one that had sustainability and ethics in mind. That year, Samson came home to Singapore and founded her own jewellery label, Pyar.
Necklaces and rings from Pyar's permanent series titled Love.
"Fair wage, above the minimum standard... Safe working conditions, mothers are looked after, there's childcare, proper disposal of waste and systems in place of that – systems are government authorised. And then there's recycling, in sourcing for materials, I want to use more recycled and ethically sourced metals," Samson explains the values of her brand. "Recycled means it has been used before, is melted and used again. Ethical means the metals are sourced or mined ethically."
Samson designs from Singapore, where her home is. She sends her designs to the manufacturer in Bali, where the samples are made and sent to Samson for revision. Later, small batches of the final jewellery pieces will be dispatched for sale on the Pyar website. "All are made of 925 silver or sterling silver. Then it's gold-plated over 925 silver for some pieces," Samson adds.
At Pyar, all the designs are stark and minimal – geometric heart pendants, thin and delicate hoop earrings and bangles, and flat silver rings. "I always liked simple forms and shapes," Samson quips.
The first piece of jewellery that Samson made was a clean, silver band. She was struck by how an object so blunt and unadorned could represent the most intangible and incomprehensible concept – love. "Jewellery is a kind of currency too. It's interesting what jewellery means," she muses. That was the reason behind the name 'Pyar', a Sanskrit word for 'beloved'.
Rings, necklaces and bangles are essentially nuggets of silver and gold. Yet, they are exceptionally eloquent. When they are extravagantly embellished, they symbolise societal status and wealth. When shaped into a heart, they become expressions of love. When it is a small cyclical band of silver, it promises commitment and marriage. It seems, the simpler the design gets, the more it promises.
I asked Samson, "If the designs are so simple, do the consumers understand what they symbolise?"
"Yes," she replied. "Earlier I did this pop-up at Takashimaya, and there was a couple – two girls. They bought a ring, the most simple silver band. And yes. It appeals to people who understand love."
For all the important things in life that jewellery stands for, it is equally crucial that these jewellery pieces are made in the best way possible. And to Samson, it seems to her that this is the silversmith and designer's responsibility – sustainability and ethics.
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