Brenda Kang, Purveyor of High End Vintage Jewellery

Brenda Kang Revival Jewels
Brenda Kang Revival Jewels

Having lived in US, Europe and Asia for 15 years, Brenda noticed that there was a lack of vintage jewellery options in Asia. Uninspired by most of the pieces in jewellery stores, Brenda decided to start Singapore’s first dedicated vintage jewels and objects business.

Brenda is no stranger to vintage jewellery, having spent 15 years in Christie’s as a jewellery specialist in New York, Paris, Geneva, Singapore and China. You can find highly coveted masterpieces from brands like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany & Co, Bulgari and more.

Before Christie’s, Brenda initially worked as an air stewardess for Singapore Airlines. During her travels, she came across many beautiful antique and vintage jewellery and that ignited her interest.

After six years, she left the airlines to pursue a Gemmology Diploma with the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA). Upon graduation, she worked as a gemmology teacher before being selected to join Christie’s New York in 1997 as a trainee jewellery specialist, assisting Christie’s Hong Kong office, based out of New York. After 4 years as a New York jewellery specialist, she moved to Paris.

Working at Christie gave her the opportunity to see and handle some of the best and most important jewellery collections in the world. Notable collections include the estates of Teresa Po Lau, Baron & Baroness di Portanova, Doris Duke, Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels and the famed Elizabeth Taylor auctions.

“Remember to thank the people who have helped you along the way even for small gestures. Gratitude helps build the business for the long run.”

Brenda Kang Revival Jewels
Brenda Kang Revival Jewels

Taking Risks to Launch The Business

Brenda decided to invest in doing trunk shows outside of Singapore. It was a risk as such shows are usually costly and there are no guarantees that you would be able to recoup your costs. However, at these shows, she met new clients, worked with different collaborators and gradually built the business with referrals from clients as well.

Having the initial success, Brenda spent more money to do trunk shows on a regular basis. While the first year was a steep learning curve, the second year was really good. She knew then that for Revival to succeed, it had to be an international business, not just a Singapore business.

As she has many clients from HK, China and Taiwan, the next logical step is to open an office space in HK. While she is in Singapore most of the time, it would be important to have a staff follow up with clients and jewellers in HK.

What Should We Look Out For When Looking for Vintage Pieces?

Aside from the typical 4 C’s for a diamond, there are other factors which affects the value of a vintage piece.

Such factors include workmanship, condition, whether it is signed or not signed, presence of English or French hallmarks, does it have certificates and wearability. Art deco earrings and rings are currently quite sought after, especially those that are signed.

However, a word of caution, not all antique and vintage pieces are worth collecting. It is important to arm yourself with knowledge and to buy from reputable and knowledgeable retailers.

To Brenda, buying vintage jewellery should not be just for investment purposes, even if it will hold or increase in value very well. It should be something which they love and will enjoy wearing. “Besides the rarity and the designs, when you wear vintage jewellery, you are wearing a little piece of history. The stories and workmanship behind some of these vintage pieces cannot be found in many modern pieces”

What’s your greatest strength that helps in your business?

“I believe my knowledge and experience from being in this industry for many years is a key strength. My international auction house background, strong network of industry contacts and list of private collectors are my strengths. Plus, I love meeting people and I am very passionate about what I do so I love sharing my knowledge and experience.”

“I need to remind myself to take time off to have a life outside of work. Work is never ending and it is so easy to get completely absorbed as it’s a passion and my own business.”

What are some of the biggest challenges running your own business?

“For me finding a balance is difficult, being in love with what I do means it doesn’t seem like work and I could go on looking / talking about  jewels through the night.  So, I need to remind myself to take time off to have a life outside of work. Work is never ending and it is so easy to get completely absorbed as its a passion and my own business.”

“I’ve bought some pieces that I love so much and can’t bear to sell, which is obviously not a good thing as I need to sell to earn the money to keep the business running. So I’ve had to learn to let go.”

There are times I end up paying too much for certain acquisitions because my heart took over and it was not the best business decision. But I’ve found that things I love and buy at premium price are usually the most beautiful and rare, it may take a little longer time to sell but thankfully I have not had to sell anything at a loss.

Brenda Kang Revival Jewels
Brenda Kang Revival Jewels

What advice would you give other female entrepreneurs?

“I think we tend to overthink, and to be hard on ourselves, it’s important to give yourself credit when credit is due. Don’t focus only on things that have gone wrong and forget all the things which have been done well. Be confident in your abilities, even when things look difficult.”

“Remember to thank the people who have helped you along the way even for small gestures. Gratitude helps build the business for the long run.”

Finally, don’t  spend  all your hard earned money only on handbags, clothes and shoes, buy some vintage jewellery for yourself. In 5-10 years from now, I promise you, you will be glad you did.

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