Images: Daughters Diamonds
“It was so scary. I was moving from earning a salary to this do-or-die business and it was really so intense,” said Sarah Ng, the director and founder of Daughters Diamonds in Singapore.
Considering that Sarah Ng, the director and founder of Daughters Diamonds, a bespoke jewellery store in Paragon (a premier upscale retail mall), grew up watching her mother, a jewellery designer, create and sell her creations, it certainly is a surprise that she only learnt to love diamonds and precious gems by accident when she was 25.
“I studied Mass Communications and Psychology in school and worked in an advertising agency. I didn’t intend to work at the store at first,” Ng shared. “I was 25 when I started developing an interest in jewellery and decided to work with my mum full-time.”
At that point, Ng’s mother had been running her jewellery store, Sulin Serio, for about 20 years.
“I grew up watching my mum run her store and watching her create beautiful pieces in her home studio. So I think at that point, I decided to just give it a try. I quit my old job and began helping her out at the store full-time,” said Ng.
However, Ng’s decision to move to help her mother full-time at Sulin Serio was not a quiet one. “Many of my friends and my mum’s friends and long-time clients knew I had made the move. That said, not everyone knew I wasn’t the one doing the designing and that my mother was still in charge of that,” shared Ng.
“One day, I got a request from a friend who was looking to get an engagement ring made. He wanted a diamond on it and asked if I could do it,”
Not wanting to turn down a friend, Ng decided to pool all the skills she gained watching her mother as well as the contacts she had made over the years to get this project done.
“I was actually in Hong Kong at that point so I had access to a few specialists in diamonds and jewellery making. So I tapped on them and the end result was this gorgeous one-carat diamond engagement ring that they loved,” said Ng.
It was this single ring that ignited Ng’s passion for diamonds and precious gems.
Eager to learn as much as she could, Ng decided to start doing as many courses as she could and to get herself all the required certificates. As she was doing this, she was dabbling in designing jewellery pieces on her own.
“After a while, my mum saw that I had a real passion and that I was really investing in my work with diamonds so she offered to let me rent a shelf in her store,” said Ng before adding that her parents never believed in coddling her and that they expected her to make her own way in her career.
“I was doing custom orders and I could only really afford one shelf so that’s what I did. Thankfully, that one shelf started doing really well and my pieces started selling,” she continued.
Five years later, in 2018, noting her daughter’s success and how much work she put into the store and her own designs, Sarah’s mother decided to hand over the store to her.
“She took a long time before she finally decided to hand the store over to me. It was really her everything, so this was a big deal,” shared Ng.
“It was so scary. My mum gave me a small amount to get started, but really the amount was only equivalent to maybe two months of rent. So I was moving from earning a salary to this do-or-die business and it was really so intense,” said Ng with a laugh.
She added that her mother was still selling her designs in the store and that she would receive a cut of the profits.
Thankfully, business kept up and shortly after taking over her mother’s store in Tanglin, Ng was approached by a leasing agent in Paragon.
Paragon was looking for local designers to take up residence at their third-floor wing, which they were renovating at that point in time, and reached out to Ng, noting how she was slowly growing the business.
“The space they gave us at Paragon was actually much smaller and it was also an open concept store. We had to really think hard about moving and my mum was actually heavily involved in this process and helped me view the space and the agreement before we made the move,” Ng said.
Unfortunately, the open-concept store called Daughters Diamonds in Paragon proved to not be such a great idea.
“It did sound like a great idea at first, but the thing is, without four walls, many of our customers were quite dubious as to our legitimacy. I realized I needed a shop with walls if I wanted people to take me seriously in the jewellery business,” Ng said.
After about a year in the open-concept space, Ng reached out to Paragon to express her concerns and was able to negotiate a new space in the mall. Of course, this didn’t come without its challenges especially because all this was happening during the pandemic.
“The challenges seemed endless. I was pregnant while negotiating the new space at Paragon, which was immensely stressful, because we were then at the peak of Covid-19. I actually delivered my daughter just a month before the Paragon shop was due to open, which meant I was dealing with artisans, contractors and checking in on renovations, and dealing with a newborn at the same time,” Ng recalled with a smile.
She continued by saying that dealing with the Covid-19 lockdowns was probably the hardest part of the whole process.
“I was still selling my pieces during the Circuit Breaker actually. I would work with my clients over the phone and then I would go out and hand-deliver my creations to them because I didn’t trust the postal service with my diamonds,” Ng said with a laugh.
“We were very lucky throughout the pandemic because business stayed good for us. You know, when the lockdowns lifted and we came back to Paragon, I still remember that first day, so many shops had moved out and were shuttered. It was so scary and demoralizing as a small business for us to see that,” Ng said.
However, Ng’s work ethic and her forward-thinking abilities were able to position the brand Daughters Diamonds such that it continued to be relevant and to stand out despite the pandemic.
“When I took over the store from my mum, I wanted to fill a gap in the industry and to set the store apart,” Ng said.
Being only 29 at that time, Ng had a unique grasp of what her age group was really looking for when it came to jewellery and wanted to be able to provide that.
“I noticed that whenever I went to some of the bigger and more popular jewellery stores, there was a lot of hard selling and upselling especially because most consumers are not trained to know how to spot a good diamond or what price they should be paying,” Ng said.
She added that seeing this was incredibly frustrating and that she wanted to be able to educate her customers as well as cater to their needs for good quality and fairly priced pieces.
“Daughters Diamonds actually does a lot of education for our clients. I teach them a lot about diamonds and pricing. I also try to never put a timeline on any one piece of work. I want my clients to walk away with something that they truly love and I don’t mind how long that takes or how many times we go back and forth,” Ng said. She added that the longest time she spent on a piece of jewellery was an entire year.
Ng also made it a point to set her store apart by making things convenient for her customers.
“I’m sort of a tech-turtle and took a long time to set up my website and to create a digital presence for my company. Thankfully, my husband pushed me to start an online store for Daughters Diamonds and the business started doing better,” she shared.
In 2020, Ng was invited to join Whatsapp’s Gifts for Goods festive campaign which was aimed at helping to drive awareness of women-led local businesses during Christmas.
“Whatsapp taught us how to use Whatsapp Business and a function called Catalog to upload product information and pricing for customers to browse and we saw a 20 per cent increase in customer enquiries on our Instagram and Whatsapp accounts. It was a real opportunity for us especially now that our target audience, in particular, relies so heavily on online shopping,” said Ng.
Today, Ng is physically at the store herself twice a week. She spends the rest of her time designing jewellery pieces, spending time with her young daughter and working on her plans for the business in 2022 which include collaborations and possibly bringing the brand overseas.
The business is steadily growing, and so is her family, with Ng also expecting another child very soon.