Meet the Client

Meet the client - Kim Goh

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Kim Goh is owner and designer at one of Singapore’s most important jewellery shops. A client of MS Amlin’s, he describes his life creating top-end jewellery destined to adorn the rich and famous.

I rarely sleep more than five hours a night. Always up early, I love to walk around my neighbourhood, Lavender, in Singapore. I’ll find a nice café, chat with the locals, and experience life as it is for real people in this city. This is important for me. In the jewellery business I spend so much time working with very wealthy clients that, outside of work, I want to be with ordinary Singaporeans. In this profession, that keeps me grounded.

Because of the humidity here in southeast Asia, I take the MRT (Singapore’s metro) to work. Normally my jewellery store, Kim.T Fine Jewellers, is in the famous Raffles Hotel, in the downtown Singapore City. But the hotel is being renovated at the moment so we have temporary accommodation in the Fairmont Hotel across the road. In this business, Raffles Hotel is an extremely valuable address.

I arrive at the store between 9am and 10am, using the morning to take care of admin. There are around a dozen people who work for me, half of them craftsmen and women, the rest gemologists, salespeople or in accounts. At the rear of the shop is our workshop where all our pieces are lovingly made.

We design between 120 and 150 items a year, featuring diamonds ranging between one and 15 carats. I once made a necklace for a wedding consisting of 30-carat and 60-carat solitaire diamonds but, believe me, that is exceptional. Rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, tiaras, brooches… we are commissioned to make all different types of jewellery. Even intimate jewellery that I really shouldn’t discuss in this magazine! The metals we work in include white gold, platinum and, more and more, titanium which is so strong that you require very little to hold the gems securely. The gems we use include diamonds, Paraiba tourmalines, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. But we also work with coral and conch pearls. What’s most important about my business is that every single piece we make is totally unique. I don’t reproduce any of my designs. Our clients wouldn’t be happy if they bumped into someone else wearing the same item.

What’s most important about my business is that every single piece we make is totally unique. I don’t reproduce any of my designs. Our clients wouldn’t be happy if they bumped into someone else wearing the same item.

From midday onwards, I’m either consulting with clients, or designing new pieces of jewellery. Next to my desk is a jewellery bench, allowing me to work on new designs whenever I get the urge. I’m constantly sketching or designing on an iPad, or creating wax moulds for jewellery. I find the creative process relaxes me enormously.

Many years ago I trained as a jewellery designer and maker at my uncle’s store in the Malaysian city of Malacca, and later at design college in Singapore. Unfortunately there are no schools that allow you to experiment with precious stones. Can you imagine letting a 17-year-old loose on expensive diamonds!

Believe it or not, I don’t wear any jewellery myself. Not a piece. We call it “the designer’s disease”: if you buy a beautiful jewel, you might wear it for a couple of months, but then you spot a nicer piece. Because you see beautiful jewellery on a daily basis, you can never be content with what you’ve got.

That’s not to say I don’t own jewellery; I just don’t wear it. Sometimes I buy items that remind me of people I’ve met, or designers who have inspired me, or to show support for other designers. The pieces are on display for a few days at home after I buy them but, after that, I keep them hidden away.

Back at work, I’ll often have a working lunch at my desk unless I’m entertaining clients, in which case there’s a Chinese and a Japanese restaurant right next door.

Many of our clients are wealthy Singaporeans. Others are businesspeople working here. They range from Australians and Japanese to Europeans and Americans. Despite being in a hotel we get very few tourists buying from us. I suppose if you’re going to spend thousands on jewels, you want to be sure you can return to the store if you need to. Not that we get any dissatisfied customers!

Most days I’ll walk back home to my apartment, stopping via a supermarket to buy fresh food. I love cooking – a fusion of Asian and European is my favourite style. My niece is living with me right now since she’s studying in Singapore, and she appreciates my food. We have a deal where I’ll do all the cooking as long as she does the washing up.

Although I have residency in Singapore, I’m actually a Malaysian national by birth. At weekends I will often make the short trip to Malaysia, or I might travel elsewhere in southeast Asia: Hong Kong, Thailand or Bali, for example. There are so many wonderful places to visit within a short distance of here.

Six questions

The last film you enjoyed?

The Hitman’s Bodyguard, with Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek. The combination of action, comedy, witty street talk and contrasting characters is very entertaining. I watch all my movies on flights. I can’t remember the last time I went to a cinema. 

Where is your ideal holiday destination?

Lake Geneva. I’ve been going there for years. I enjoy walking with the clean air, mountains and lake – close to Mother Nature and yet very modern.

What’s your favourite meal?

Eggs. They can be cooked dozens of ways: hard boiled, soft boiled, sunny side up, poached, omelette, steamed egg custard, with veggies, with meat, with caviar…

 

Which books are you reading?

A French vocabulary book. I’m trying to pick up basic French. 

Which five famous people would you love to invite to dinner?

The Dalai Lama (for wisdom), Li Ka-shing (for business success), Yo-Yo Ma (for music passion), Tina Turner (for singing), and Joel Arthur Rosenberg (for jewellery passion).
 

If you won millions in a lottery?

We started a jewellery apprentice programme for disabled people, and I’d like to add more candidates to it. I’d also love to own a big building in Singapore where local and foreign independent jewellers could teach and learn from each other.

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