When you’re in the market for bespoke jewellery, it’s a good idea to get advice from someone in the know! Aarti Sonawala from ART N ASH is a fourth-generation certified gemologist, diamond grader and jewellery designer in her family’s diamond and fine jewellery business. We find out more about her background in gems and jewels, her design process and the highlights of her collections.
You’re from a long line of bespoke jewellery experts; what has your journey been like?
I grew up in Antwerp, Belgium and completed my undergraduate education in Business Economics from Vesalius College in Brussels. Whilst in College, I spent my summers in Los Angeles at the Gemological Institute of America, studying bespoke jewellery design and diamond grading. (I am GIA certified.)
After college, I went to Mumbai, India to work in our family-owned factory and learn about diamonds and jewellery manufacturing. I spent one year in each and every department, doing everything from sorting diamonds, learning how to make jewellery moulds and setting the diamonds, to stringent quality control.
I then moved to Houston, Texas, where my uncle had a wholesale jewellery business. Here, I learnt all about marketing, sales, promotions and business development. I finally moved back to Antwerp, where my father had his diamond trading business. So I joined him and started a wholesale jewellery business of my own!
How did you grow the ART N ASH brand in Singapore?
I arrived in Singapore in 2013 and have built my business through word of mouth. Naturally, when someone recommends you, it’s a credible way to grow your brand. My family business has offices and factories all over the world including in India, Belgium, China, the US, Israel and Australia. I work closely with our Hong Kong office and factory. As we are diamond wholesalers and jewellery manufacturers, our forte is in the price, and our strength is in the 100-plus years of experience. Our core values include ethical products, responsible sourcing, sustainability and mindful designs. My clients really benefit from this deep know-how.
What do you enjoy most about running your own bespoke jewellery business?
For 30 years now, I’ve travelled all over Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands selling jewellery to stores. I would sell to the boutique shops rather than the main street ones; I had a great time building business relationships with these boutiques. Now, three decades in, I’m still selling bespoke jewellery – and enjoying every minute of it!
Tell us about your jewellery design process.
Designing bespoke jewellery is the easy part. But what I love most is connecting with my clients, to really find out what designs they have in mind – and, most importantly, why. I always start with the ‘why’, and of course I need to know who the jewellery is meant for. Part of my ‘discovery discussions’ with clients, is to find out if the custom jewellery is for everyday use, a special occasion or occasional wear.
Once I’ve sat and had discussions with my client and we’ve gone through various options, I ask for the professional design to be sent from our Hong Kong factory, where we have a team of designers.
I can make any design work for my client within their budget. Being authentic in my trade, I want to make sure I’m absolutely meeting my client’s needs. As long as my client is comfortable, I’m comfortable.
What’s the best part about working with clients one to one ?
I enjoy having intimate and authentic conversations with clients. When someone orders something from me, they’ll not only get the crash course on the ‘4Cs’ of diamonds, but I will also share the ‘10 things that most jewellers don’t share with their clients’! For example, which ‘C’ is more important to consider when buying a solitaire versus a tennis bracelet; or, what type of earring will sit better on their lobe; or how to use their budget to get the custom jewellery they’ve always dreamt about.
Tell us about your collections.
We make timeless designer diamond jewellery that covers bespoke bridal, classic and everyday elegant jewels. My ‘Everyday Elegance’ line of jewellery consists of affordable diamond jewellery that can be worn every day. Prices in this range are from S$500 to $3,000.
We also have a bespoke diamond and gemstone jewellery line that’s specially designed and crafted with the finest details in gold or platinum.
What is your absolute favourite design from your collections?
My favourite has to be the rainbow eternity ring; one side has a row of diamonds and the other a variety of coloured gems.
Are there any particular trends that you follow with your designs?
Trends in jewellery used to be a big thing; Italy usually set the trend twice a year during the Vicenza Trade fair. Classic designs such as tennis bracelets and eternity bands are definitely evergreen. My ‘Illusion’ series is popular, as clients feel they get value for money; the earrings look like a solitaire, but are actually made up of several diamonds put together in a pressure setting so it looks like one diamond from afar.
What do you love about creating a bespoke jewellery piece?
Getting a piece of jewellery designed is a unique and special experience. You can blend design and budget and create the perfect piece to match your needs. I love creating something that is unique and brings a smile to my client’s face.
What’s coming up next for you?
We will be unveiling new collections at our next jewellery show. Stay tuned for dates. Expat Living readers are most welcome contact me at email email@example.com to discuss your custom jewellery ideas.
For updates and information, visit ART N ASH on Instagram.
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