The Business Times
8 Aug 2018
Since Michael Koh founded Caratell 15 years ago, various clients have sent him on a hunt for some of the rarest gems in the world, such as the Kashmir sapphire, benitoite, bixbite (red beryl), demantoid garnet from Russia and canary tourmaline with manganese bearing. But these are challenges that Mr Koh takes on with relish, if only to help create a bespoke piece of jewellery that the client can truly call her own.
Mr Koh describes his clients as "savvy, sophisticated, intellectual individuals who have some knowledge of gemstones and typically collect art.
They go not only for rare and unique gems, but also untreated gemstones that appreciate in value over time… For a bespoke creation, the all-important main gemstone must have a certain gem quality that is accompanied with reputable certification, for instance, a non-heat cornflower blue sapphire that displays good brilliance and with an acceptable level of inclusion that doesn't affect its beauty."
Mr Koh is no stranger to extremely complex pieces. Some of his works include intricate, ostentatious pieces designed to take one's breath away. Small wonder then that Caratell has attracted a number of commissions from royalty (who cannot be identified due to confidentiality agreements.)
He recalls: "We had to design a brooch for a royal figure, for which there were strict requirements. The piece had to be exactly 8 cm long and with a total carat weight of the diamonds at exactly 8 carats. We had to conceptualise and develop the design within a day or two where we researched the profile, family history and also what is permitted and prohibited whilst designing for royalties... All in all, we completed the entire project within two weeks."
There was also another royal project to design a tiara for a princess. "That, too, was full of detailed research because we had to understand the do's and don'ts. We had to make sure what kind of tiara is best suited for the princess due to the fact that different tiaras are meant for different statuses. In addition, the final tiara was not supposed to overpower the overall look of the princess... In the end, we presented a multi-functional piece, which was a tiara that could be transformed and worn as a choker as well."
Royalty aside, Mr Koh also creates heirlooms for the average well-off client: "With heirloom pieces, we think hard to create a design that is suitable for both mother and daughter as it is going to be a passed down to the future generation… We make sure our bespoke pieces are special and meaningful to our clients."