By Bernardette Sto. Domingo
For over two decades, world-renowned fine jewellery designer Michelle Ong has been at the forefront of helping sophisticated and self-actualised women express themselves through jewellery.
Her love affair with the arts and natural beauty, combined with an innate creative flair, places her in a unique position to showcase her talents while contributing significantly to women empowerment.
In 1985, Ong established her high-end jewellery brand, Carnet, in partnership with gemstone expert Avi Nagar.
Her journey as a jewellery designer has since elevated her to several heights. Her work has been featured on various platforms including international exhibitions and even a Hollywood movie – in 2006, the Hong Kong-born designer was asked to create an iconic jewellery piece for “The Da Vinci Code.” Ong’s Carnet jewels have likewise been exhibited at Asia House London, the prestigious Burrell Collection in Glasgow, London’s Natural History Museum and London’s Masterpiece Art Fair.
To this day, the jeweller continues to bring imagination to life through complex, bold and innovative designs that have catapulted her to the realm of the world’s finest jewellery designers.
In this exclusive interview, Ong sits down with JNA to talk about her creative process and design philosophy.
JNA: Please describe the kind of woman who wears your jewellery.
Michelle Ong: Each piece of jewellery I design is distinctive in terms of style and quality, just like an individual person. I wish to design for women who are confident in their choices and love to wear beautiful jewellery; those who embrace their individuality and understand how to express this through jewellery. I create pieces that are a bit unexpected, elegant and memorable with a captivating femininity and modest boldness. This perfectly describes my Carnet clients. The women who wear Carnet know themselves, are confident and choose things that suit them regardless of trends – they are stylish, sophisticated, confident, one of a kind, feminine and accomplished. They appreciate art and see jewellery as an artistic expression that can enhance and reflect the beauty of the wearer.
JNA: How have customer preferences changed over the years?
Ong: Jewellery trends have evolved worldwide to reflect the beauty and complexities of today’s woman. Jewellery is now worn to illustrate personal style, and that is what I hope to reflect in Carnet designs. Women have more freedom, independence and opportunities to express themselves with art and culture. They can choose a piece of jewellery that is truly unique to them – I have always believed that the right jewel becomes part of your persona. I have noticed recently that many of my clients gravitate towards rich, deep colours that are bold yet feminine. Carnet pieces featuring gems such as rubies, emeralds and amethysts are being sought after for their intense colours and sophisticated, timeless appeal. Different age groups will always have varied tastes but that comes down to the design of the piece and not necessarily the stone. For example, there’s an impression that jade is reserved for the older generation, but I believe the younger generation is beginning to appreciate the beauty and value of jade, thanks to more avant-garde creations.
JNA: What are your favourite gemstones to work with and why?
Ong: It is tough to choose a favourite gem. They all have their exceptional qualities, beauty and intensity. Lately, I‘ve been drawn to sapphires, amethysts and jade. I am attracted to grey diamonds too. They are mysterious – neither white nor black – which allows for great artistry and tangible fantasy. I was one of the first designers to use grey diamonds and appreciate their mystic beauty. I also love to use rose-cut diamonds. I started using them more than 15 years ago. They have a soft, mesmerising brilliance, like light diffusing through the clearest of waters. Naturally, they have become Carnet’s signature stone. The diamond has fewer facets to obtain a marvellous, almost shimmering surface. The depth of the stones can vary, making it an intensive labour of love to match and set. By manipulating these stones and creating special settings, I was able to achieve some of my most imaginative designs.