A prodigious jewellery designer on how not listening to others allowed her to shine.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

When jewellery designer Yasmin Tjoeng (pronounced Cheung) first started her brand Maison Tjoeng four years ago, she tried heeding the advice of others. Born in Australia and raised in Papua New Guinea, she tells us that she’s always wanted her brand to be conceptual, with pieces that were bold, solid and well made. “But, early on, I was unsure and because of what people told me, I tried making pieces that were more commercial with lower price points.”

Participating in jewellery shows, including Couture Las Vegas, Premiere Classe at Paris Fashion week and jeweluxe in Singapore, changed her habit of listening to others. Of Chinese and European descent, Tjoeng, who also does custom orders, says, “I realised that the pieces people were drawn to the most were the ones that were true to my brand aesthetic. It opened my eyes and made me realise that in that space, people are more attracted to design and quality, and are less focused on the price.”

Striking and sizeable, Tjoeng’s creations have a sculptural and organic quality. This is evident in pieces such as her large, silver necklaces with frond-like shapes and gold earrings with curved lattice structures. Maar, her new collection, is inspired by surrealist photographer, painter and poet Dora Maar, whose works include a dream-like photo of a hand emerging from a seashell on a beach. Partially studded with diamonds, the Maar creations are distinguished by a spiral seashell-like form. 

My Reading Room

An 18k yellow gold ring from the Maar collection. 

It’s a self-assured and distinctive aesthetic that belies her relatively short experience as a jewellery designer. Previously, the closest the commerce and interior design major got to the industry was when she ran a small wholesale jewellery business in Australia before graduation. In 2013, Tjoeng moved from Hong Kong to Singapore to study jewellery design at the Raffles Design Institute.

Currently, Maison Tjoeng is available at jewellery stores in London and New York, and online boutiques 1stdibs and Pietra, as well as its e-store. There are also plans for the brand to be stocked at Oneorchard.store, the Textile and Fashion Federation of Singapore’s e-commerce website. Even as the fine jewellery arena becomes increasingly crowded, Tjoeng is confident that her unique offerings will continue to find an exclusive audience. “Within that competitive space, there are niches. My jewellery is for the customer who really appreciates the craft and is looking for pieces that will last a long time.” 

Text Lynette Koh