Michele Ong of Yukimoto on Underrated Gems of the World

The future is crystal clear.

In a sea of hopefuls gleefully following the way of water, Yukimoto chooses to swim upstream, finding its own cove in the jewellery-making moana. Its singular vision to marry the healing properties of natural stones with the visual sensibilities of the fashion world, while admittedly a high-risk game plan even for the more established names, has filled the gap in the market for such output.

Yukimoto’s niched customer segment, however, is tipped to get bigger. The homegrown label is spreading its wings to Penang—the hometown of founder and jewellery creator Michele Ong. “It’s still under renovation as we’re taking over a heritage building but that would be our second physical store. It will open in the second quarter of the year,” said Ong when met at her Menara BRDB Bangsar boutique recently.

The move is especially poignant given the history of the brand, which started as an online business. It was also where Ong had a new lease on life after her childhood dreams of being in the entertainment industry did not pan out. Her path post-Miss Astro Chinese International Pageant 2016—a competition that launched the careers of actresses Jojo Goh and Lynn Lim—was much bumpier than expected.

“It felt like I had hit rock bottom. I felt so lost,” she recalled. Not only was she not given the same opportunities as her peers, Ong was also pressured to keep up appearances. “Being a celebrity is costly. I had to spend a lot on clothes and beauty products, on top of other commitments. It was driving me crazy,” she divulged, struggling to imagine what her life would be like had she stayed on that path.

Noticing the conundrum she was faced with, her mother, a crystal enthusiast and small business owner, gifted her a Brazilian Aka Melody Super Seven crystal bracelet. “She told me it would bring me luck,” she said. Ong, however, refused to believe in all that mumbo jumbo. That was until one near- magical happening took place in the bathroom of her house where she was having a hot shower.

“I saw vibrant purple, red, and silver colours arranged in a pattern resembling hair—I figured out much later that it was some sort of reflection from the minerals on the bracelet,” she noted. It was, as it turned out, a sign that marked the turn of the tide for Ong as she saw an uptick in industry-related offers. That said, her mind was made up. She was to return home and start over.

Ong, whose sense of style is described as minimalist and androgynous, wants to reframe the narrative on crystal jewellery. She wants it known that it can be stylish and sophisticated if done right, thus resonating with the younger generation. Yukimoto’s jade bangle, which is also the founder’s personal favourite, is a testament to this with its pared-down design that can be worn day or night.

“Yukimoto women are powerful and modern, and they like unique things from our Mother Earth,” said Ong. She proceeded to add that every stone is unique and has its own story to tell. “They come in different patterns and the colours may vary from piece to piece,” she shared. There’s exclusivity in these one-of-a-kind stones but it also makes it nearly impossible for the brand to replenish its dedicated collections.

“Sometimes our products are quite limited,” she concurred. Adding to the rarity of these stones is of course their healing properties—the cornerstone of the Yukimoto brand. It is a bold selling point that may or may not reverberate unfavourably. To this, Ong responded: “I wouldn’t tell people point-blank that these stones will bring you luck and money,” she said after taking a beat.

“I always emphasise that the stones can enhance our energy but it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to put effort into your career or your love life,” she elucidated. While on the subject, Ong also shared that each stone carries its own frequency and that some are higher than others. “The rutile quartz stone has a higher frequency than, say, the more visually striking rose quartz and rock crystal,” she added.

But does a higher frequency mean a higher chance of getting the desired result? It ultimately depends on the individuals, said Ong. “They may increase blood circulation and one could get sweaty. Those who are trying on the power stones for the first time may experience faster heartbeats when they put them on the wrist,” she remarked. Nevertheless, power stones aren’t the only attraction at Yukimoto.

Entering its sixth year of operation, the brand has been slowly enriching its catalogue with other gems including rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Its commitment to quality has taken it to the far-flung corners of the world such as Xinjiang, China for the best jade stones and Shima, Japan for some exquisite pearls. It is a forward-thinking manoeuvre as Yukimoto strives to reach wider demographics, and from the looks of it, it is already there.