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[Weekender] More than a piece of jewelry

As customers shift away from mass-produced jewelry, order-made items emerge as a new way to express one’s personality

May 23, 2014 - 20:23 By Lee Woo-young
As more people are choosing clothes and jewelry that highlight the wearers rather than specific brands, jewelers have started creating one-of-a-kind jewelry that can showcase the wearer’s personal history.

Jewelry designer Jung Soo-yeon, who launched her jewelry brand Tanello in 2000, says she has succeeded in attracting both foreigners and Koreans in Seoul looking for such unique jewelry.

“I focus on the private feeling that the jewelry can give to the wearer,” said Jung in a recent interview with The Korea Herald in her showroom in Itaewon-dong, Seoul. “A lot of my creations are made to order and they all have different stories.”
Jewelry designer Jung Soo-yeon of Tanello poses for a photo at her jewelry store in Itaewon, Seoul, Wednesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

About 70 percent of her customers are foreign residents and tourists visiting Seoul. Japanese customers make up the majority of customers at the Bukchon store, located in the heart of the popular tourist area of Samcheong-dong. Her brand has been featured in Japanese fashion magazines such as “Eclat,” “Croissant,” “Domani” and “Frau.” Her Itaewon store draws foreign residents, as well as Koreans looking for fresh, creative designs.

Most of her customers visit her shop to restyle their old jewelry. “Some people bring their family rings passed down from their grandmother to upgrade the old design. They want to continue to wear them and cherish family values,” she said.

Each story embedded with jewels is as precious as the materials. A daughter remodels her mother’s old rings and bracelets and makes them into brooches. A customer rekindles her travel memories by transforming an original gemstone she bought on a trip into a sophisticated jewelry item.

Jung’s designs have a timeless quality. She draws her design inspiration from natural objects such as rocks and twigs and translates them into calm, feminine pieces using rarefied pearls and gemstones. The designer, who studied metalcraft, handcrafts each item to create a piece of art.

Her gold bracelets are not perfectly round, but unevenly curved in the shape of gnarled twigs. Layered with other bracelets, they look contemporary yet natural. Jung’s creations reveal the original qualities of gemstones such as rubies, sherry topaz or blue topaz. The gemstones unveil their original color when mounted on matte-finished gold rings. The irregular-shaped baroque pearls give a piece of jewelry a contemporary edge on top of the traditional femininity of pearls.

Jung also goes against some of the standard rules for matching jewelry items.

The usual combination of earrings and a necklace is not the best match, especially when the necklace is short. The earrings and pendant on the necklace collide, offsetting their own charms rather than creating a sense of balance.

“It’s better to have a distance between one item and another. If you are wearing earrings, then wear a long necklace with a pendant hanging on the bottom. The farther from the earrings, the more balanced it will look,” she said.

Those who wear glasses should keep their earrings compact. If they want to add an accent to their look, they should go for bold rings.

When it comes to layering jewelry, Jung offers some fresh tips. When layering different rings, a gray gemstone ring will serve as a good color base that will go with any color. Matching complimentary colors such as navy and green makes a unique statement. Gemstones of the same hue, but in different tones create a balanced look. For this summer, Jung recommends matching a watch with bracelet layering.

“Jewelry gives you confidence and sophistication. If you keep something for a long time, you get energy from it,” Jung said.

By Lee Woo-young (