FROM JEWELLER TO LEGACY BUILDER
Michael Koh of Caratell shifts his focus from design to education to ensure that the jewellery industry retains its lustre.
This year, Caratell, which is one of the finest haute joaillerie ateliers in the region, celebrates 15 years in the jewellery industry. Its founder, Michael Koh, is the driving force for its success. He is more than just a designer – he is a passionate artisan who dedicates time and effort into producing original jewellery masterpieces that can be considered fine works of jewel art.
With a passion for jewellery that stems back to when he was just 18 years old, Michael strongly believes in nurturing talented young designers by giving them a platform to closely collaborate with design institutes in Singapore. Once they have honed their skills, the promising protégées are invited to join the Caratell team and are trained in order to further hone their skills.
Since establishing Caratell, what would you say is the brand’s most notable contribution to Singapore’s jewellery scene?
We have created a niche market for artistic bespoke jewellery. We have also helped shape a different perspective on jewellery design, allowing our clients, friends, and the public to view jewellery as miniature sculptures.
How do you ensure your clients keep coming back to Caratell for their jewellery?
At Caratell, we are able to openly communicate and share ideas with our clients. Of course, being able to draw on the spot is also very important because it is an integral part in the process of creating bespoke jewellery – whether it is a simple solitaire ring or a statement necklace.
These days, more consumers are looking for experience and satisfaction by being involved in the design process. In the end, it makes the piece more meaningful and memorable. In addition, we are also able to design and fabricate sophisticated mechanisms that allow for multi-functional jewellery, resulting in interchangeable pieces like pendants or rings that can transform into earrings and more. I think this is why our clients keep coming back to us, and at the same time, recommend us to their friends and relatives as well.
Beyond traditional jewellery, Caratell has also dabbled in timepieces and perfume bottles. How else do you see the brand evolving in the next few years?
There is lot more to explore in jewellery, whether it is something fun, something functional, or something that relates to our daily needs. We are currently working on essential oil pendant and hope to develop this range of products as a special made-in-Singapore gift for tourists.
Beyond being a jewellery designer, you are also a lecturer in jewellery design and fabrication. What kind of attitude do you look for in your students?
I look for honesty, enthusiasm, motivation, creativity, passion, innovation, and responsibility.
What are your views towards young jewellery industry hopefuls in Singapore?
Most of them dream to be eventually recognised as gifted designers by the general public, as well as their peers.
We hope more locals in Singapore will appreciate their work by giving recognition and support, which will allow them to proudly stand on international platforms. These young hopefuls must also realise that creativity, paired with honesty, will play a big part in their journey to success. They must be original and create their own identity, and realise that designing with integrity will help them in the future should they decide to start their own brand.
Education seems to be an important thrust for Caratell today. What are your hopes for the future of the jewellery industry in Singapore and how do you ensure you play a role in its development?
We’ve learned from some of our customers that they are losing confidence in buying jewellery after bad experiences like buying fake gemstones from overseas, as well as receiving wrong information from other jewellers and online platforms.
Because of this, we hope to conduct intimate workshops to help build their knowledge in gemstones, as well as the craft of jewellery making. Hopefully, this will rebuild their confidence in buying jewellery, as well as have a clearer understanding and appreciation of the craft.
We believe that education and organising external professional talks is the right way to preserve the jewellery-making tradition. We also hope that it will inspire the younger generations to join the industry and help in its further development.