updated 14 May 2013, 08:05
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Mon, Oct 01, 2012
New Straits Times
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Getting personal with jewellery

The single storey house looks like any other in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. However, step inside and you'll realise this is more business premises than a home.

On a table in the living room are a couple of computers and rubber moulds fill up half the space in one of the rooms. Called MC Square Studio, this is the creative hub of Chin Keat Loong and his wife, Jane Leo Mei Mei. The couple design custom-made jewellery. First, they hand-made the jewellery the traditional way. Then they moved on to using technology such as computer-aided design (CAD) and 3-D prototyping to take the craft to a higher level.

Getting started

Chin, who holds a degree in Computer Science and Physics, used to work with the Singapore Port and Singapore Civil Defence. Leo was in the marketing department of RHB in Johor Baru for two years.

They started their business after they were married in 2001.

"We both had enough of the 9-to-5 job. We wanted to start our own business," says Chin.

Their decision to venture into jewellery was not surprising as they had worked before in a jewellery factory that belonged to Chin's brother. "We learnt to make traditional jewellery, especially Indian designs, while there," says Chin who believes that the jewellery business has potential to grow.

"There are weddings all year round and lots of other occasions where people buy jewellery for," he says, adding that what they offer is the freedom for customers to choose their own designs.

Hi-tech venture

Chin says the traditional way of making jewellery limits creativity and is time-consuming.

"We used CAD from day one," he says.

Leo picked up CAD programming skills while Chin learnt to use the computer-aided machine (CAM), which translates what the computer designs into prototypes.

"With the CAD/CAM programme, we are able to offer rings, bracelets and pendants designed according to customers' preferences," says Chin.

Since the work is almost entirely online, being able to translate what customers want is crucial.

"Ninety-nine per cent of our orders are made online. We also have customers from Japan, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom," says Leo. "Some send us scanned pictures or sketches of the jewellery they want.

Others will just give descriptions from which we sketch the designs and email to them for approval. When they are satisfied, we proceed to make the prototypes and final products."

A new design takes about three weeks to complete. However, there was an instance when it took six months to get a design right for a customer in the US.

The Process

Leo interacts with the customers online and does the design.

The design and printing of 3-D models are done in the living room, while the rest of the process is done in another room.

Once the design is confirmed, it will be printed using a 3-D printer and output into a rubber mould from which Chin casts a ceramic mould.

He then pours hot metal - gold, silver, palladium silver or platinum - into the mould. When the metal cools down, he breaks the mould and shines the metal before adding stones such as zicornia, diamond etc.

Completed pieces will be sent to local customers via Pos Laju and FedEx to overseas customers.

"Customers who live nearby can collect it from us directly at our house," says Chin.

Depending on the design, metal and stones used, prices range from RM250 to RM2,000 (S$100 to S$800).

Neighbourhood arts

The couple also conduct classes for those who are interested in the craft. Participants often include entire families and those from as far as Penang. Each class costs RM99 and there are usually four participants.

"MC Square Studio is the place to begin one's artistic journey into the world of jewellery making. We want to make this a community initiative," says Chin.

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