Entrepreneur

Mad About Gems: How This S'porean Radio DJ Built An Award-Winning Bespoke Jewellery Brand

Jewellery shopping can be disappointing when you can’t find the unique pieces you’ve been searching for.

However, it’s hard to feel let down at MADLY, with their range of vibrant, painstakingly designed gemstones.

The bespoke jeweller has received considerable attention since the brand’s inception in 2015. In fact, MADLY has made it to Tatler’s 10 Best Singaporean Jewellers for four consecutive years.

It has also won the Best Jeweller in Asia by the Luxury Travel Guide Lifestyle Awards, and made it to TallyPress’ Top 10 Artisan Jewellery list.

The Singapore-based brand has even been referenced in publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair and the International New York Times.

“We’ve definitely grown by leaps and bounds, as evidenced by the fact that we started with one designer,” says Maddy Barber, the founder of MADLY.

“In six years, have expanded to (a team of six designers) and we’re still growing.”

From Radio DJ To Jewel-preneur

A radio personality well-known in Singapore, Maddy continues to serve as the co-presenter of a breakfast show on local radio station Kiss92 FM.

However, gemstones were always a lifelong love of hers.

Growing up, I would silently covet my mom’s jewellery collection which is a mix of diamond and coloured gemstone jewels,. When I was able to buy my own jewellery, I wanted each piece to reflect who I was.

(But)  I found that traditional jewellers didn’t, and still don’t, offer many choices of stones or design, and the pieces offered in the market were quite run-of-the-mill.

Maddy Barber, founder of MADLY
Image Credit: MADLY

Maddy tried to create custom jewellery at regular jewellers, but realised that they rarely went through the effort of understanding their client’s style or personality — neither were they daring enough to try anything new.

This was why she launched MADLY.

“If I get a bonus at work and spend it on a piece of bespoke jewellery, it’d better be something that’s unique and tells my story, even if it’s down to the last detail,” says Maddy.

“Apparently, many feel the same way too and so, here we are!”

Design According To Your Budget

The design process at MADLY always starts with a budget.

Typically, engagement rings start from around S$3,500 while the complex cocktail rings featured on MADLY’s Instagram page start from S$6,500.

Essentially, the larger your gemstones (and ring size), and the more complex or elaborate a design, the higher the cost will be.

That’s why at MADLY, we tell you to set a budget, and then we can advise you on the best options for it.

Maddy Barber, founder of MADLY

After setting their budget, customers can choose from a range of gems that fit their price range.

“Every gem looks beautiful without a better one next to it, and at MADLY, we have a range for clients to see the difference,” says Maddy.

“Our studio doesn’t use jewellery lighting — only regular LED and the daylight that pours in from our patio. We feel that this is the most authentic way of showcasing jewellery, to see the gem exactly as how you’d see your jewel on a day-to-day basis after it leaves our shop.”

madly gems
Image Credit: MADLY

After gem selection, clients work with one of MADLY’s designers to realise their vision for the piece.

“We always try to decode our client’s style DNA,” says Maddy. “Are they modern and sleek, romantic and vintage, bold and bright, or edgy and cool?”

“For very meaningful pieces, we try to chat with them more about the stories they’re trying to convey, or little quirks that really bring a design and jewellery piece to life.”

The process takes some back and forth before the design is confirmed, says Maddy, who notes that it’s hard to nail a client’s preferences on the first try.

Once the piece is confirmed, the crafting process takes nine to 12 weeks to complete.

Diamonds Aren’t A Girl’s Best Friend

According to Maddy, MADLY has the widest range of coloured gems in Singapore.

The jeweller’s vibrantly coloured gemstones are a massive departure from the muted look of a default diamond solitaire — and that vibrance has helped MADLY stand out from traditional jewellers in Singapore.

MADLY has the full range of gems, from the more famous coloured gems such as sapphires, emeralds and rubies, to up and coming ones like spinels and tsavorite garnets, and even colour-changing gems like Alexandrites.

The brand only sources the top 0.1 per cent of rare gems on the market, meaning that only a handful of the thousands of gems the brand screens meets their standards.

Alexandrite engagement ring / Image Credit: MADLY

All our stones have the magical trio of good colour, cut and clarity. The top 0.1% of stones have the best colour for each stone type — always bright and lively, high saturation and pure hues.

Maddy Barber, founder of MADLY

On top of being more eye-catching than diamonds, coloured gemstones are often more rare than white diamonds, while being more bang for your buck in terms of size.

For example, Tanzanites — a coloured gem discovered only in 1967 — is set to run out by the turn of the century.

But for the price of a one-carat D-colour diamond, you can get a 10-carat Tanzanite that rivals Titanic’s Heart of the Ocean (if you can find one). 

This makes coloured gems a great buy for cash-strapped younger customers looking for a unique piece on the market.

Ethical Jewellery

The bespoke jeweller has also invested in a sourcing office in East Africa to purchase gems in their rough form.

This gives gem cutters full reign over the precious stones. They’re also able to coax the full potential out of each rough through their precision cuts.

The direct line to a supplier also provides MADLY’s gems with unprecedented traceability.

madly gems
Image Credit: MADLY

MADLY is the only jeweller in Singapore to be accredited with the International Coloured Stone Association’s Ethical Accreditation program.

This means that the gems purchased from MADLY are mined responsibly, traded sustainably, not sourced using child labour and obtained legally.

I started MADLY because I wanted to give back to the communities which unearth the world’s natural wonders, and make sure that they have similar opportunities as us, and earn decent wages to provide for their families.

Our in-house gemologist goes to Tanzania himself, meets with the miners and inspects every stone personally, together with our Tanzanian team.

Maddy Barber, founder of MADLY

Their Jewellery Are Madly Personal

The clientele at MADLY consists of a wide range of customers — from couples looking for engagement rings, to power women procuring their own jewellery.

“MADLY is more than just creating and selling beautiful jewellery – it’s about making the world a more joyful and sparkling place with what we do and how we interact with people and the world around us,” says Maddy.

Her passion for gemstones bleeds into the way she enthuses about the pieces that MADLY creates.

She stresses that bespoke jewellery is one of the “most intimate possessions” one could possibly have.

“Can you imagine picking a gem that’s exactly 11 carats to represent 11 years of marriage, designed with your and your husband’s initials like a secret that’s known only to you and your love?”

“Or a pendant with a lagoon tourmaline the same hue as the Maldivian ocean, a place that gave you immense peace while on holiday there?” she gushes.

“With bespoke jewellery, anything is possible and any memory can be ‘set in stone’ — pun unintended!”

Featured Image Credit: MADLY

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