Lee Hwa Jewellery

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The Lee Hwa Jewellery logo.

One of Singapore’s largest commercial jewellers, Lee Hwa Jewellery creates unique pieces inspired by trends on fashion runways. The homegrown brand is recognised for creating and introducing Purple Gold to the global jewellery market.

Origins

Koh Wee Seng (above) is the son of Lee Hwa Jewellery's founder, Madam Tan Soo Lan. As of 2019, he is the CEO of Lee Hwa Jewellery.

Lee Hwa Jewellery was founded in 1970 by Madam Tan Soo Lan. She opened Lee Hwa’s first outlet on Circuit Road and grew her business selling cornflower yellow gold of 916 and 999 purity. In 1994, she found that consumer tastes had changed and the company began to “only break-even”.[1]


In the same year, her son, Koh Wee Seng, took over the family business. Koh was a Business Administration graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and had been helping out in the business since he was 11 years old. Under his leadership, Koh updated Lee Hwa’s image by changing the brand’s consumer target and increasing its appeal to both the local and international market.[2]


As of September 2019, Koh Wee Seng is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lee Hwa Jewellery and Aspial Corporation Ltd.

Lee Hwa company structure

Lee Hwa was described as a vertically-integrated operation with in-house manufacturing and a  large retail network.[3] By 1999, Lee Hwa had the largest jewellery factory in Singapore, employing around 100 skilled craftsmen. As a result of its size and payroll, the company could  buy its diamonds, pearls and other gems in bulk directly from producers at a cheaper price.[4] Additionally, it had 16 retail showrooms strategically located at high traffic areas such as Suntec City Mall and Wisma Atria.[5]


Lee Hwa has a Research and Development (R&D) centre that gave the brand a competitive edge. The jewellery company has a reputation for innovation and unique jewellery.[6] Lee Hwa’s R&D was credited for creating and designing the world’s first Purple Gold collection.[7]


Besides its R&D, the brand was also recognised for its customer service. In 2005, it was awarded the Singapore Tourism Board Award for Best Shopping Experience (Specialty Store). According to customer testimonials, Lee Hwa’s staff were known “to make personal deliveries and send gifts to customers during festivals”.[8]

Growth in Singapore

The interior of Lee Hwa's JewelSpace - a concept store opened in 2018. Photo from indesignlive.
The revamped storefront of Lee Hwa's Bugis Junction outlet. Photo from ZULA.sg.

Lee Hwa’s dedicated focus on producing contemporary jewellery and its aggressive promotions accounted for its popularity and high sales. Between 1995 and 1999, Lee Hwa’s turnover increased from S$23 million to S$72 million.[9] In 1999, Lee Hwa was listed on the mainboard of the Singapore Exchange, making it the first and only jewellery company to be publicly listed.[10][11]


In 2000, the brand launched the Lee Hwa Diamond Gallery at CityLink Mall. At the same time, it announced that Lee Hwa was going ‘upmarket’, indicating its intention to take on prestigious international brands such as Bulgari and Tiffany.[12]


In 2002, Lee Hwa launched its flagship store, the Lee Hwa Jewellery Hub, located beside Orchard Emerald. Koh Wee Seng identified the store as a “one-stop hub for wedding-related jewellery” as it held the widest collection of wedding jewellery.[13]


Lee Hwa opened its first concept store at Suntec City in 2018. Lee Hwa's JewelSpace boasts a jewel bar, vertical wall gallery displays and interactive "play spaces".[14] In 2019, Lee Hwa opened it's JewelPlay concept store at Bugis Junction.[15]

Overseas markets (Aspial Corporation Ltd.)

For its international debut, the company spent almost S$1 million on trade visits and advertising. To cater to the international market, Lee Hwa designed jewellery under its international brand name Aspial. In 2001, Lee Hwa changed its company name from Lee Hwa Holdings to Aspial Corporation Ltd, representing the brand’s effort to align its international efforts with the home.[16]


Under Aspial, Lee Hwa exhibited its products in Japan, Beijing, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Germany and Switzerland. Aspial jewellery found international appeal and was sold in Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Beijing, Dubai, Frankfurt and London.[17]


In 2011, Aspial represented Singapore as the jewellery partner for Singapore Night at the Moscow Night Race. The brand was invited by the Singapore Embassy in Moscow and presented its signature Purple Gold collection for the show. In 2013, Aspial was the official jewellery for the Audi Fashion Festival.[18]


By 2011, Aspial Corporation made and sold jewellery under the following brand names: Aspial, Lee Hwa, Goldheart and CitiGems. It also owned a chain of pawnshops under the Maxi-Cash brand and diversified into property business under the firm, World Class Land.[19]

Notable collections

In 2019, Lee Hwa Jewellery released limited edition purple-gold products in light of Singapore's Bicentennial Celebrations. Photo from ZULA.sg.

Platinum & Gold

Lee Hwa introduced white gold to its customers through the Platinum & Gold collection in 1996. The collection catered to the tastes of women between 20 and 25 years old. To further market the collection, Lee Hwa opened its first city store, Platinum & Gold, in Wisma Atria. The store was the first to retail contemporary jewellery without the classic 916 yellow gold pieces.[20]


With the success of the Platinum & Gold collection, Lee Hwa discontinued the production of 916 gold and exclusively manufactured white gold jewellery.[21] In 1998, the Platinum & Gold collection was merged under the Lee Hwa brand, in turn becoming a trademark of Lee Hwa Jewellery.

Purple Gold

In 2000, Lee Hwa created and launched the world’s first Purple Gold. The collection was recognised as a breakthrough in the jewellery industry. Purple Gold was acknowledged by the World Gold Council as a precious metal. It was made by combining 19K solid Purple Gold with other metals, such as palladium, and was identified as nickel-free.[22] By 2002, Aspial Corporation had acquired the distribution rights and patented the technology for Purple Gold.[23]


The Purple Gold collection was selected by the Singapore government as the state gift for the 13th ASEAN Summit in 2007.[24]

Newsworthy Incident

In December 2009, Koh Wee Seng was under investigation by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) for allegedly breaking rules linked to insider trading. According to the news report, Koh was investigated for “possible infringement under Section 218 of the Securities and Futures Act, which deals with prohibited conduct by a connected person in possession of inside information”.[25]


In 2011, CAD completed the probe and concluded that no action would be taken against him.

References / Citations

  1. “The man with Midas touch”. The Straits Times. June 13, 2004. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  2. “The man with Midas touch”. The Straits Times. June 13, 2004. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  3. Teh Hooi Ling. “Jeweller Lee Hwa gets green light for mainboard listing”. The Business Times. May 28, 1999. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  4. Teh Hooi Ling. “Jewellery maker and retailer in $10m expansion plan”. The Business Times. April 7, 1998. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  5. Teh Hooi Ling. “Jewellery maker and retailer in $10m expansion plan”. The Business Times. April 7, 1998. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  6. Cheah Ui-Hoon, “Lee Hwa eyeing world market”. The Business Times. March 23, 2001. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  7. “Lee Hwa”. Today. July 9, 2004. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  8. “Putting that extra bit of shine on day-to-day customer service has paid off”. Today. March 2, 2005. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  9. “The man with Midas touch”. The Straits Times. June 13, 2004. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  10. Teh Hooi Ling. “Jeweller Lee Hwa gets green light for mainboard listing”. The Business Times. May 28, 1999. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  11. “Lee Hwa”. Today. July 9, 2004. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  12. Ong, Cat. “White is right”. The Straits Times. August 19, 2000. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  13. Tham, Pearlyn. “Lee Hwa’s glitter hub”. Today. November 14, 2002. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  14. Lee Hwa Jewellery. "5 reasons to visit Lee Hwa Jewellery’s latest concept store". Lee Hwa Jewellery. November 15, 2018. Accessed on 4 September 2019. Retrieved from: https://leehwajewellery.com/blogs/news/5-reasons-to-visit-lee-hwa-latest-concept-store
  15. Yeo, Jade. "Lee Hwa’s JewelPlay Is Shaking Up Jewellery Shopping With An Aesthetic Open Concept". Zula.sg. July 27, 2019. Accessed on 4 September 2019. Retrieved from: https://zula.sg/lee-hwa-jewelplay/
  16. Cheah Ui-Hoon, “Lee Hwa eyeing world market”. The Business Times. March 23, 2001. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  17. “The man with Midas touch”. The Straits Times. June 13, 2004. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  18. “About Us”. Aspial. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from aspial.com.
  19. Uma Shankari. “CAD completes probe, no action to be taken against Aspial CEO”. The Business Times. January 8, 2011. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  20. "About Us”. Aspial. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from aspial.com.
  21. "About Us”. Aspial. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from aspial.com.
  22. “Purple Gold”. Lee Hwa Jewellery. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from leehwajewellery.com.
  23. "About Us”. Aspial. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from aspial.com.
  24. “Purple Gold”. Lee Hwa Jewellery. Accessed 28 August 2019. Retrieved from leehwajewellery.com.
  25. Uma Shankari. “CAD completes probe, no action to be taken against Aspial CEO”. The Business Times. January 8, 2011. Accessed 19 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG