Walking through the 15-year retrospective exhibition of Simone Jewels is like flipping through the dusty pages of history books.
Simone Ng is the founder and creative director of her much-lauded namesake jewellery brand, the first Singapore brand to be showcased at Harrods in London.
But Ng is also a self-professed history junkie.
Every collection she’s designed since 2006 has been rooted in famous chapters of history, from the ancient stories of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; to the Georgian era (1714 – 1830) of British architecture; to the life and times of actress Hedy Lamarr, who famously fled an unhappy marriage in Austria to become a legend in America.
Ng says: “Although I studied business and later got an MBA, I’ve always been drawn to history, often researching into periods, episodes and famous figures that I was interested in – with no other reason than the pleasure of discovering all I could about them.”
In the case of Lamarr, Ng happened to catch a 2017 documentary about the actress’s life titled Bombshell and was immediately struck by her intelligence and independent spirit. Ng decided to centre her 2019 collection of high jewellery around the actress, creating pieces that reflected Lamarr’s achievements.
For Lamarr may be celebrated for her stunning looks. But she was also a science whiz credited for co-inventing an early version of frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication for torpedo guidance, which became a blueprint for today’s wifi and Bluetooth technology.
Lamarr was so smart, in fact, that when she was only five-years-old, she took apart a music box and reassembled it again on her own.
Ng recalls this episode by creating a miniature music box of a necklace that can be wound up to play music. Ng describes the intricate piece, decked with blue sapphires, chrome tourmalines, diamonds and other stones, as “the perfect conversation starter on the story of Lamarr”.
Another striking collection is the 2011 From Russia With Love. Here, Ng and her team looked at the history of jewellery worn by Russian royalties, such as Catherine The Great, and borrowed techniques from their traditional craftsmen to tell the story of the country.
One of the pendants Ng created is a Faberge-like ruby and diamond-encrusted egg that can be unlocked to reveal a little ballerina inside – a nod to the fact that Russia is famous for perfecting ballet.
Elsewhere, Ng drew inspiration from the pages of the Middle Eastern literary classic One Thousand And One Nights for her 2015 collection. Each piece relates to one or more of the magical tales in the book. And the collection’s most fascinating piece is a diamond-encrusted pendant that can be opened, locket-like, to reveal a magical little bird inside.
“Fittingly, as the book is about princesses and magic carpets, this piece ended up being purchased by an actual princess from Malaysia,” says Ng with a touch of pride.
Ng herself was born in Malaysia to a family of jewellers, but moved to Singapore 20 years ago with her husband.
Since starting her label in 2006, Ng and Simone Jewels have garnered several awards, including the Luxury Jewelry Brand award in 2016, the Most Promising Brand Award in 2018, and the Women Entrepreneur Award in 2019, given out by various institutions. Her showcase at Harrods in 2020 was just the latest notch on a belt already full of them.
Her retrospective at Shangri-La Hotel caps an impressive 15-year run. It confirms that while Ng draws much inspiration from history, she herself is no stranger to making it.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.