Cover From left: Creative director Shanya Amarasuriya; inside the new flagship boutique of B P de Silva Jewellers in Dempsey.

As B P de Silva Jewellers celebrates its 150th anniversary, creative director Shanya Amarasuriya tells us about the brand’s new Dempsey flagship, its first high jewellery collection and more

For a country that’s three years shy of 60, it may come as a surprise that Singapore has its fair share of heritage brands. And many are much older than the island nation itself.

One such business is the family-owned B P de Silva Jewellers, one of country’s oldest jewellery houses, led by fifth‑generation creative director, Shanya Amarasuriya. The brand, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, has come a long way since its founder Balage Porolis de Silva sailed the globe from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) with only a handful of gems in his pocket before setting roots in Singapore and opening the first B P de Silva atelier on High Street in 1872.

It’s perhaps noteworthy that the business survived the Japanese Occupation, thanks to de Silva’s distant relative, who ran the business at the time. He had the foresight to hide the jewellery under a tree and returning them only after the war.

When we sit down for this online interview with Amarasuriya in July, B P de Silva had just unveiled its new standalone flagship boutique—the brand’s first in a decade—in Dempsey a month earlier. “The Dempsey space is unique, especially from a brand creative point of view. The foot traffic has been encouraging as well,” she shares.

“I did have my reservations about a standalone location at first, and the risk was there, but my team and I believe—and still do­—that it was the right move. So far our clients, especially those who have just discovered our brand, have enjoyed the discovery and experience.”

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After spending two years building her team, and getting to know her customers and craftsmen through B P de Silva’s bespoke journey, and having worked in several of the group’s subsidiaries, Amarasuriya took the helm of B P de Silva Jewellers in 2018, wanting to bring more meaningful experiences for jewellery and gemstone lovers alike, while keeping the brand’s heritage alive.

“I’m thinking about who we are—and were—as well as the common thread running through the generations. It’s really the simple things,” the 31-year‑old enthuses.

These are embodied within the spaces inside the boutique, which pay homage to the brand’s patrimony, from the time‑honoured tradition of serving tea to its clients to the display of handwritten letters from its royal patrons and prominent clients, including the Duke of Connaught and the King of Siam.

Furthermore, the large arched windows and doors of the boutique bring natural light into the space, with a view of the lush greenery outside, offering a gemstone and jewellery experience like no other.

“When I started going to Sri Lanka to source for gems, I would visit a few of the merchants at their homes and we would head to the balcony to see the gemstones in natural light,” says Amarasuriya. “This is another jewellery tradition I wanted to bring into the space.”

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With its tagline of “Safekeeping Stories Since 1872”, stories are central to B P de Silva. And after five generations, it’s ready to tell some of its own, starting with its first high jewellery collection, which will be released this month.

“When I look at our archives, we’ve done high jewellery, but it was always made to order for private, discerning clients,” says Amarasuriya. “We’ve never fully displayed the prowess of our designers and master craftsmen to this degree. With the upcoming high jewellery collection, it’s like safekeeping our own stories as an ever-evolving family business, and also celebrating how far we’ve pushed ourselves across generations.”

The collection features five jewellery pieces, each designed to express the sentiment of each generation of B P de Silva. “We have diamonds, morganites, and sapphires, of course, which are hallmarks of the brand, but we also play with colour. Each piece represents a moment in time in our history,” she explains. “For example, the [piece depicting the] first generation has a more classic appeal, while the [one for the] fifth generation represents the design language that our clients have come to expect from us, which is more towards  art deco, modern, and sleek.”

Sustainability is also at the heart of B P de Silva. Amarasuriya released its first collection crafted in ethically sourced Fairmined gold in 2020, and the company is also in the process of becoming Singapore’s first B Corp‑certified jeweller. In order to achieve B Corp certification, a company must demonstrate high social and environmental performance, ensure a corporate governance structure that is accountable to all stakeholders, and exhibit transparency.

The B P de Silva group of companies also continues to grow beyond luxury jewellery. With patriarch Sunil, chairman of B P de Silva Holdings, taking a backseat on the day-to-day running of the business, Amarasuriya runs B P de Silva Jewellers; her second brother Rehan runs tea brand The 1872 Clipper Tea Co; while eldest brother Navin ran fine jewellery brand Risis until 2018, before stepping down to become the chief operating officer of US‑based educational transformation organisation, The Contentment Foundation. The family also has a minority stake in Swiss luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet.

Life Moments

So what is it that inspires her jewellery design? Amarasuriya, who has a degree in gemmology and fine jewellery design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, says she’s “struck by certain moments in my life; oftentimes, I’m inspired by people.”

Take for example the brand’s upcoming functional jewellery collection, which will be launched by year-end. It’s inspired by a 90-year-old client in Australia, who sent across a handwritten letter asking the brand to recreate his wife’s lost wedding band, which it had created almost 60 years ago.

“We ended up exchanging letters every month. I guess with life and modernity, I also wanted to preserve the art of letter writing, and this shared experience of human connection. I never thought that the letters would inspire the design of a new collection. Sometimes, it’s not even a form but an emotion,” she says.

On a personal and professional front, the future looks exciting: Amarasuriya is expecting her first child in January next year, and has been inspired to create a collection that symbolises mother and child. “I did a sketch, the form is very maternal, and I can’t wait for it to come out. Funnily enough, we’ve been getting a lot of enquiries on children’s jewellery at Dempsey,” she muses.

But more than anything, she wants to carry on the family legacy and fortify B P de Silva’s reputation as “a jeweller you can connect with, regardless of what that means, whether it’s the history, hospitality, or design.”

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