During the Circuit Breaker, many Singaporeans found themselves confronted with a surplus of a most precious commodity: time. Some Singaporeans learnt how to bake, others pursued fitness goals they never had time for. Still other busied themselves with creative projects they could finally lose themselves in.
For self-taught jeweller Charissa, she used the time to put the finishing touches on Modest Minerals.
She jokes that instead of a home baker, she became a home jeweller.
We talk to her about the origins of Modest Minerals and what it’s like to start a business during a pandemic.
First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi there. I’m Charissa and I am Modest Minerals.
Modest Minerals is run by one person from conceptualisation to execution and that’s me.
I often refer to Modest Minerals as a collective ‘we’ because I’m alluding to myself and the brand as a unit.
I always sign off the thank you cards with ‘M’ because it separates myself from the brand and helps me to not take things so personally.
Who makes the pieces for Modest Minerals?
I do. I don’t show my creative process often but I do craft and assemble every single piece by hand.
Where do you make your pieces?
How did Modest Minerals begin?
Modest Minerals was actually borne out of personal frustration. I got into crystals a couple of years ago and was looking into getting some jewellery for myself. However, I found the options in the market often too elaborate and hyperfeminine for my liking. So, I decided to make my own.
There was a gap in the market for affordable, minimal gemstone jewellery and that’s how Modest Minerals came about. Nothing too flashy, nothing too elaborate, just… modest.
Do you dedicate yourself full-time to Modest Minerals?
I wish! Modest Minerals is still a small shop that cannot pay my bills. I am a Creative in the ad industry by day. Surprisingly, I find Modest Minerals to be a huge boon for me in terms of creativity. It’s a sandbox for me to dump all my pent-up creative energy, a place where I can realise all my creative ideas that didn’t get the green light.
What are some of your go-to gemstones for day to day wear?
A big theme for me in 2020 is self love. I wear a Rose Quartz bracelet to remind myself that I am loved and I deserve love.
On your website, customers can choose to shop by items, colours, stones or properties. I think that’s really clever. What is the most popular property that your customers look for?
Thanks for thinking it’s clever! Not every patron of Modest Minerals is into the metaphysical properties of the gemstones, so I wanted to cater to everyone by separating the pieces into a few different categories.
Listing them by properties is actually a pretty tedious process, but I believe it will be very helpful for people who aren’t as acquainted with the metaphysical properties of crystals and for the layman who just wants to buy a meaningful gift for their friends.
The most popular property is ‘Abundance and Prosperity’.
I guess everyone wants to be huat.
What are some of your best-sellers?
I started out selling only ear studs in my first collection and slowly branched out to bracelets, necklaces and rings. My most popular item to date would be the Everyday Ring, a simple adjustable gemstone ring. It is made of stainless steel and is tarnish-resistant, which is very important in this COVID-19 era! I can’t tell you how many of my personal rings from other jewellers I’ve damaged from exposure to the alcohol in hand sanitisers.
Do you know if your demographic skews towards men or women or is it a fairly even mix? I’m asking this because your website is very, very unisex!
That’s a great question.
I actually do make it a point to refer to patrons of Modest Minerals as ‘folks’ and not ladies or gentlemen. My biggest gripe about jewellery brands in the market is that they are very often unnecessarily gendered.
I want Modest Minerals to be a brand accessible to everyone regardless of their gender identity.
The meaning of gemstones has been discussed since ancient times. You place a big emphasis on educating customers on what each gemstone represents. How did you come across these meanings?
To be very honest this was really tough. There is no one reputable source for the meaning of gemstones, which means they can differ across various sources.
I had to do a lot of reading up to sieve out the common denominators in order to write a description that accurately represents the assigned properties to the best of my abilities.
Your designs are very minimalistic, which brings the eye’s focus to the gemstones. Can you tell us about your design influences?
My aesthetic eye is very heavily influenced by Scandinavian designs, having spent several summers there a number of years back.
But form and function both hold equal weight in the conceptualisation stage.
For example, our Everyday series (rings, necklaces and very soon bracelets) is quite literally made for everyday use.
Personally I’m a very fuss-free, low-maintenance person and could never find affordable and good quality jewellery that just never tarnishes.
At risk of sounding very self-indulgent, I make what I want to wear because that is what I believe people need.
Do you make customized designs, like bespoke pieces for your clients?
We did at one point when we launched the Seismic Bracelets! We custom made bracelets for patrons who didn’t fit the average wrist sizes we have in our shop.
However, I’m still figuring out how to streamline the customisation process so it’s less time-consuming.
That’s in the pipeline for 2021. We want to launch a bracelet customisation service that allows people to choose everything from their wrist size to the individual stones… just like a Subway sandwich.
Do you work with any local craftspeople?
Yes we do! We’re currently in the process of getting a custom homeware piece with Ownables (@onables.shop) to shoot for our next collection. In the past, we collaborated with local laser engraving studio Thymemaker (@thymemakerstudio) to engrave the cherry wood jewellery boxes we used in our first giveaway. We also attended a pottery session with local pottery and woodworking studio Un Studio (@un____studio) to make pieces we can shoot with for our upcoming collections.
And that’s our interview with Charissa of Modest Minerals!
Do you have a favourite gemstone? Tell us which one on our Facebook page.