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.”
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.”