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Brand to Know: Jewellery – Borrowed from Architecture

By Guan Tan

Eden + Elie

Two years ago, Singaporean Stephanie Choo started a jewellery label. For years she was an architect. Later, an experience designer. In 2015 she left all that behind, "to start Eden + Elie – which is a culmination of all I've learned in my career." 

Demanding architectural design values permeate her jewellery pieces. "I love the work of the masters like Louis Kahn [and] Alvar Aalto," she quips.

She dissected the principles behind the American architect Kahn, and Finnish architect, Aalto's works. "They know how to work with light and shadow, with solid and void – the language of what gives form and makes space." 

When designing jewellery, Choo borrows from these masters. Later when she's done, she takes a step back and reviews her designs, "with a critical eye – is it too much? Or the opposing question – is it enough?" She seems to spend a great deal of time on perfecting the design of a small piece of jewellery. "For something to be just right, there is a feeling of that timelessness and grace – that it is poised to just 'be'." 

Perhaps to Choo, design is impartial. There's no one field of design that's superior to another. Be it architecture, product, industrial or jewellery design. They all have to be good design. In jewellery, for instance, there shouldn't be "tension". It shouldn't be overworked. Neither should it be "decorative for the sake of itself".

Choo designs these dainty bracelets, earrings, and necklaces like she would with a massive building. She'd spend the bulk of her time on research and development so there are no mistakes at the end. 

Eden + Elie

Her small collections of jewellery pieces, for instance, are a result of tremendous experimentations. The design process starts with one model – sketches, physical prototypes, and "many, many variations, experiments and throwaways" before she arrives at a final design. 

After this, she continues to expand the family of said model. "I start thinking about what variations this design could generate – what would the related pieces look like? Then we build siblings, cousins and other family members for this design." 

Choo keeps the design value of timelessness and materials close by. For that, she doesn't "work with trends". She explores both traditional jewellery materials – and non-traditional ones, especially borrowing from architecture. 

"We use mostly 24 carats gold-plated metal – the highest grade of gold-plating you can get," Choo explains. Her choice would render the jewellery pieces affordable, yet "[durable] in our weather". 

Another surprising material she borrows from architecture is glass. "It's not only tarnish-proof, it is – I think – a beautiful, underrated material." Choo uses glass seed beads. To her, beading is an intricate and precise design process. These glass beads have a fixed size and shape. Quite like modular architecture, "if it's too loose, it won't fit. If it's too tight, the weave will buckle... They have to fit together in a certain way." 

Design and technicalities aside, Choo personally "wears very little jewellery". A taxing work-life balance has forced her to "simplify as much as possible. So I tend towards things that I will want to wear over and over again." Her jewellery too, are incredibly pared back.

Yet, strangely to this jeweller, jewellery should never be the focus of a person's outfit or life. "It should be you... In that sense, jewellery is a companion – it is what you choose to carry with you as you go through your day." 

It's definitely no easy feat to manage her family and children, alongside an independent jewellery label. But as she courses through her day, her jewellery pieces perhaps serve as a constant reminder. "There are so many difficult, hard things," Choo considers before adding. "Design is what I love – using design for good."