Talismans, amulets and lucky charms. These, more often than not, come in the form of a sculpture or a piece of jewellery. They were created and used throughout ancient times as potent symbols of protection, bestowing luck upon the wearer and thus serving a purpose beyond the decorative. Fast forward to the present day, and figurines and purpose-specific jewellery still hold importance.
Over time, the talismanic charms of jewellery have survived the ebb and flow of trends. Some of the more notable brands that have dipped into this pool include luxury French jeweller Chaumet who paid celestial tribute in its latest Les Ciels de Chaumet collection, and Miuccia Prada’s Talisman collection from two years ago, that featured animals such as bears, lion and birds. The Talisman collection emphasised the way in which primitive forms have shaped human consciousness. While it is rare to come across brands with a long-standing association with the spiritual world, some have made it their signature. Van Cleef & Arpel’s iconic symbol of luck, the Alhambra, was created in 1968.
Foundrae’s medallion necklaces and charm bracelet.
The symbolism behind this jewellery seems to be making a comeback yet again, with medallion necklaces getting a boost in popularity thanks to their prominence among Net-a-Porter’s product offerings and symbolic gemstones filling the pages of Instagram. While many jewellery labels have leveraged on the trend, one, in particular, stands out as a jeweller that creates its pieces around the belief of spiritual magic. Founded in 2015, Foundrae is a fine jewellery brand that (in its own words) “celebrates a set of values that is greater than gold itself”. Beth Bugdaycay, co-founder of Foundrae, spoke to T Singapore about the language of mystical symbols and why they appeal to the modern customer.
LYNETTE KEE: Tell me the story behind Foundrae — what is the concept and how did it start
BETH BUGDAYCAY: I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do something that was more meaningful and more in line with my values. I was scared, I had self-doubt and felt that I needed to dive into my inner resources that weren’t at the surface, which led me to build a lexicon of symbols that could be used as tools of self-discovery and self-expression.
LK: The jewellery at Foundrae is designed with heavy spiritual significance. What inspired you to create a jewellery brand dedicated to spirituality?
BB: We use spiritual and mystical symbols to remind us of our capacity for change and growth and to inspire the next chapter. To me, it’s all about the unfolding of [an] individual, and I feel that’s not possible unless you embrace spirituality. [That’s] not just “my idea of spirituality” but what spirituality means to you. It comes in many forms.
Creative director and co-founder of Foundrae, Beth Bugdaycay.
LK: Could you elaborate on the nine core values behind your jewellery collection?
BB: First, I composed our lexicon of symbols, which I would liken to the letters of an alphabet. Just as we use the letters of an alphabet, I saw the symbols as something that we could combine together to create new words and concepts. To introduce the idea of building a language. I then created Strength, Karma, Dream, Protection and Wholeness. Those were the first five tenets we introduced. Then came Passion, Resilience, True Love and Course Correction.
When I think of the tenets, I think of them as inspiring action in [an] individual. They encourage introspection and then action. Some of them might feel relevant to your life every day and representative of a core value, while others might be a stepping stone to the next chapter.
LK: And how does that differ from the elements collection?
BB: For the elements, it’s [also] about the individual but also about our connections with each other. We are each composed of multiple elements that shape our personality, what drives us and influences our interpersonal relationships. I thought that if I could bring more awareness about our natural proclivities, then we can again start to think about our next actions and personal will, because ultimately, we each have agency over our own lives. I also felt that it was very important to recognise that while we are each composed of multiple elements which help to create our unique personalities and differences, we are also united by the one common element we all share: aether, or light, or chi, whichever way you’re most comfortable referring to it doesn’t matter as much as the point, which is that it’s a symbol of solidarity.
LK: Why did you choose jewellery to be the product of this expression? How would the effects have differed if you were to create a line of clothing, for instance, with the same concept?
BB: That’s so funny you said that! Because at first, I thought the same thing: that it was about symbols, the lexicon, and that the platform of those symbols was secondary. But the reality is that we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we want to with the symbols on clothing. We want them to be heirlooms that are imbued with the spirit of the wearers.
A Foundrae Karma medallion necklace with the humber 8 symbolising infinity.
LK: I noticed that you have incorporated the ancient art of enamelling into your jewellery-making. How does that tie in with the modern heirloom narrative of your brand?
BB: The American Arts and Crafts movement (1880-1910) is definitely very influential for me. It emphasised the preservation of traditional, hand-made craftsmanship as a reaction to the mechanisation of the Industrial Revolution — I find that very inspiring, even as a metaphor of life. Because with Foundrae we are really saying that we should not be living “mechanised” lives and just going through the motions. Instead, we need to search within ourselves for the right path to our real selves. Aesthetically I’m influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, as well.
In the jewellery from [during] that period, they tended to use simple shapes with medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration with an undercurrent of Native American Indian influence. Enamel and cabochons of semi-precious gemstones are hallmarks of the jewellery from this period. The jewellers preferred to emphasise the craftsmanship over the use of large, rare, precious stones. The champlevé enamel technique we use is the perfect example of this — it’s all about the skill of the craftsperson to be able to create each piece.
LK: Since the Foundrae jewellery is built upon the symbols that give it meaning, could you please elaborate on how these symbols are being used and what do they represent?
BB: It’s important to me that the symbols are culled from multiple time periods and multiple cultures and then melded together. I think that once they are combined, they are much more significant than when they are in isolation, much like people.
LK: How would you describe the Foundrae woman?
BB: I wouldn’t say she’s a woman. We are finding that the symbols are resonating with many people, both men and women. I would describe this person as a “seeker”. Someone [who] is more self-aware and is seeking to continue to grow and to become more “authentic”. To me, those two words apply to everyone I’ve met through Foundrae.
LK: Lastly, what does jewellery mean to you and how do you align your creations with that belief?
BB: I think jewellery is at its best when it’s autobiographical. I always think that our jewellery has to be made to be worn over and over and over, every day, gathering new stories every time, until it becomes part of you.
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