Poh Heng Jewellery

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The Poh Heng Jewellery logo.

Poh Heng Jewellery is a homegrown family business with its roots in 1940s Singapore. Alongside Lee Hwa Jewellery, Poh Heng is one of Singapore’s most well-known jewellery brand names. As of October 2019, Mdm Chng Hwee Siang is the Managing Director of the company since the passing of CEO Chng Seng Mok in 2015.[1]

Background

Origins

The storefront of Poh Heng's first store at North Bridge road. Chng Tok Ngam is pictured third from right. Photo from Poh Heng.

Poh Heng was founded by Chng Tok Ngam in 1948. Tok Ngam left China at 16 years old to apprentice at his uncle’s goldsmith shop in Singapore.[2]


In 1948, the 28-year-old Tok Ngam and his father-in-law Lim Tong Buan established Poh Heng Goldsmiths Ltd.[3][4] “Poh” was Tok Ngam’s nickname and the word means “precious” in Mandarin.[5] In the Teochew dialect, “Heng” means “luck”.[6] The first Poh Heng store was located at 691 North Bridge Road.[7]


Tok Ngam suffered a stroke and passed away in 1984.

Succession

Chng Seng Mok, Tok Ngam’s eldest son[8] and a former national shooter,[9] took over the business after his father’s passing.[10][11] Seng Mok joined the company in 1975 after completing his National Service.[12] He started as a shop assistant at 25 years old alongside his sisters Vicky, Seng Quee and Seng Kiat. Chng Seng Mok’s leadership ushered in a period of expansion for the brand - from a single jewellery shop to a sixteen-outlet jewellery chain.[13]


Seng Mok passed away in September 2015 from cancer.[14]

Third generation leadership

Mdm Chng Hwee Siang (left) and her daughter, Pamela Seow. Photo from Women's Weekly.

Chng Hwee Siang, Tok Ngam’s daughter, took over as the acting CEO upon the passing of Seng Mok.[15] Hwee Siang has been working at Poh Heng since 1974 after a stint with the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board, the predecessor of the Singapore Tourism Board.[16]

Branding

Poh Heng cites trust as the most important element in its branding.[17] They have also kept up with trends to ensure that they remain relevant to their customers. The brand has introduced products such as the Bianca 22 range from Italy that feature modern designs in white gold with a purity of 22 karats.[18] As part of their consistent branding, Poh Heng has participated regularly in the Great Singapore Sale.[19]

Brand image overhaul (2001)

The old Poh Heng logo. Photo from NewspaperSG.

In 2001, Poh Heng refreshed their largely conservative image with the launch of a new logo. The new logo minimally featured the Chinese characters for “Poh Heng” and the new tagline, “nothing is quite as precious as trust”.[20] The new logo did away with the weighing scale and replaced the previous tagline, “a tradition of trust and security”. As part of their brand image overhaul, Poh Heng sponsored the jewellery worn by Mediacorp artistes for the 2001 Star Awards.[21]


As consumers become increasingly demanding over the packaging of the products, Poh Heng replaced their obsolete plastic packages with classy-looking velvet boxes.[22] At the time, the image overhaul was a way to attract customers below 35 years old. It was reported that 70% of Poh Heng’s customer base was above 35 years old.[23]

Advertising

In 1990, it was reported that Poh Heng spent S$150,000 on a promotional campaign to advertise the opening of the new shops in Hougang and Parkway Parade.[24] By 2005, Poh Heng’s advertising budget was reportedly a few million dollars a year.[25] The brand has rarely used celebrity endorsement in its advertising, opting to use local models such as Sheila Sim to promote their products.[26] In 2013, Poh Heng branched into getting bloggers such as Brad Lau to endorse the brand.[27]


In 2005, the brand rolled out an advertising campaign to market Poh Heng as a younger and upmarket brand. They chose ad spaces on the front page of The Straits Times, sharing the space with other high-end brands such as Tiffany & Co and Cartier.[28][29] In 2018, Poh Heng rolled out a publicity campaign called "A Journey of Trust" that was received positively by the Singapore public.

Services

Poh Heng was one of the first jewellery retailers to offer bottled water to their customers. The bottled water bears the company’s logo. In 2005, they gave out an average of 850 bottles across 13 outlets per day.[30] Poh Heng's customers can also trade in an old piece of 22k gold or 24k gold for a new piece of the same value. Poh Heng also promises customers that they would buy back all gold jewellery made by the brand.[31][32]


Poh Heng offers personalisation services where couples can engrave the nuptial dates on their wedding bands.[33] Additionally, Poh Heng provides custom jewellery-making services.[34]

Store expansion

A Poh Heng storefront in Singapore.

In the 1970s, Poh Heng expanded into town centres like Bedok, Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh.[35] The first Poh Heng heartland outlet opened at Toa Payoh Central in 1978.[36] This business expansion was fuelled by the lower rental prices and lesser competition with other jewellers in town centres.[37] As reported in 2008, the move paid off well with the heartland sales contributing to a large share of Poh Heng’s revenue in 2008.[38] As of October 2019, Poh Heng has 14 outlets across Singapore.

Timeline

Year Key Event(s)
1971
  • Poh Heng set up its first outlet in a shopping mall at People's Park Complex. It is Poh Heng's flagship store.[39]
1978
  • Poh Heng opened its first Heartland outlet at Toa Payoh central.[40]
1984
  • 4 new Poh Heng retail outlets were opened - one of which was in Parkway Parade. The business was reportedly so brisk the company had to rent an adjacent shop for the next three weeks to cater to the crowds.[41]
  • Poh Heng bought a 120-square-metre unit at Golden Landmark Shopping Complex.[42]
  • In 1984, it was reported that Poh Heng had a stock worth of S$8 million at the other newly leased outlets in Parkway Parade, Hougang and Joo Chiat.[43]

Product innovation

In the 1940s, Poh Heng released a 24-karat golden toothpick and earpick set.[44] In the 50s, they produced dual-function jewellery such as scroll lockets which could be worn as a pendant to hold amulets and a solid gold pen which could conceal an ear pick.[45] Since then, Poh Heng has released numerous collections that reach a wide consumer base.

Singapore designs

The Legacy Floral Necklace (pictured). Photo from Poh Heng.
The Poh Heng Legacy Floral Diamond Earrings. Photo from Poh Heng.

Through the years, Poh Heng has produced Singapore-inspired jewellery collections.

Year Collection Description
2019 Legacy[46] Each piece features diamonds set in 18k gold to form Peranakan motifs, such as the handcrafted ceramic flower tiles from Peranakan architecture.
2015 The Peranakan Ensemble[47] A 13-piece commemorative jewellery series featuring the Phoenix motif.
2013 Garden Sonnet[48] A collection inspired by the native flora of Singapore. It consists of necklaces featuring motifs including orchids, kopsias, bougainvilleas and ferns.
2008 Trio bracelet[49] The bracelet features interconnecting rings that represent the Olympic rings, the Formula One Grand Prix night race and the Singapore Flyer.
2006 Cosmopolis diamond bangle[50] The 18K white gold diamond bangle was inspired by the Singapore skyline at night.

Youthful designs

The pieces in Poh Heng Disney Babies' collection (pictured) was created with children in mind.

Poh Heng has incorporated more youthful designs into their collection through the years. These designs integrate fine jewellery and well-known cartoon characters.

Year Collection
2018 Mickey & Minnie Stunning Silhouette[51]
2018 Hello Kitty Pretty Bow[52]
2018 My Melody Limited Edition Pendant[53]
2017 Singapura X Hello Kitty commemorative piece. In light of Singapore's 52nd National Day.
2016 Disney Babies’ Bundle Of Joy[54]
2012 Minnie Mouse Limited Edition[55]
2009 Hello Kitty[56]
2005 Tweety Bird and Hello Kitty[57]

Jewellery for men

Year Collection
2017 Father's Day Collection - six clean and elegant rings[58]
2012 Handsome and Dapper Collection - 18k white gold rings and cufflinks[59]
2004 Baraka Collection[60]

Seasonal designs

Year Event Collection
2019 Valentine's Day Trust Diamond Ring[61]
2019 Chinese New Year Joyful Pig 22K Gold Pendant[62]
2018 Mother's Day Embrace pendant[63]
2018 Valentine's Day Infinite Love[64]
2017 Father's Day Father's Day Collection[65]
2008 Christmas Mistletoe Moments by ORO22[66]
2006 Mother's Day “2Hearts” pendant and chain[67]
2004 Mother's Day Embrace Forever[68]

Notable collections

Si Dian Jin

Si Dian Jin is the term used for traditional Teochew betrothal gifts. The products in this collection remain the most popular items sold by Poh Heng.[69] In 2010, the range underwent a revamp and the designs were updated to cater to the modern bride. There are now four sets of jewellery within the collection - Bohemian, Regal, Sophisticated and Ingenue.[70]

ORO22

Some pieces from the ORO22 collection. Photo from Buro 247.

Launched in 2006, “ORO22” means 22k gold in Italian. The collection aimed to combine Poh Heng’s traditional lead in gold jewellery with modern and fashion-conscious designs.[71] Poh Heng planned to use ORO22 to break the mindset that gold is matronly.[72]


The ORO22 range features a distinctly dusty yellow tint of gold that the brand dubs the “moonlight glow”.[73] The designs include a ribbon-like necklace interlaced with white gold, a baroque cuff bracelet and a cord-like choker woven with several smaller strands of yellow gold threads.[74] In 2012, Poh Heng launched the ORO22 leather collection where 22k yellow gold pieces are paired with leather accents.[75]

itrustme

itrustme is a range of diamond oriented jewellery that “expresses the independent spirit of Singaporean women today”. It is targeted at women who have the financial independence to buy their own jewellery.[76] The design focus for the range is bold and dramatic. Hence, some pieces in the collection feature strong clean lines of solid white gold embellished with brilliant white diamonds.[77]

Awards & accreditations

Poh Heng is accredited by the Singapore Assay Office, with a certification that its gold jewellery meets international purity standards.[78]


In 2005, Poh Heng was the first jewellery brand to be conferred the Heritage Brand Award.[79][80] Poh Heng also received the Superbrands award from a survey conducted by the Reader’s Digest in the same year.[81] Poh Heng has been voted as Asia’s top luxury brand thrice.

Newsworthy incidents

Poh Heng's "A Journey of Trust" photo exhibition at Orchard Road. Photo from Deskgram.

"A Journey of Trust " photo exhibition (2018)

In 2018, Poh Heng was praised by netizens for its inclusive photo exhibition called “A Journey of Trust”. Two of the images in the exhibition featured same-sex couples. The public exhibition was in conjunction with their 70th-anniversary celebration.[82] The exhibition featured a mixture of local personalities and average Singaporeans with their loved ones. These images were displayed on billboards in Orchard Road and coincided with Pink Dot 2018.[83][84]

Reported theft cases (1999 & 2003)

In 1999, eight diamond rings worth S$10,000 were stolen from Poh Heng Jewelley’s outlet at Parkway Parade. The rings were there when the store opened at 11.30 am. However, they were noticed to be missing at 6.10 pm.[85]


In 2003, Or Long Minh, a Sales Executive at Poh Heng, admitted that he had stolen more than S$9,000 worth of jewellery from the Tampines Mall outlet. He reportedly stole three gold necklaces and a bracelet in March 2003. He was sentenced to a month in jail.[86]

Reported fraud cases (1992 & 1993)

In August 1993, two Austrians were charged for stealing credit cards from Poh Heng Jewellery’s outlet at North Canal Road.[87]


A year earlier, Sum Siew Wah, a restaurant supervisor, had used a stolen credit card to purchase jewellery at Poh Heng. Ms Ang Ai Boon had left her credit card behind at the restaurant. Sum Siew Wah reportedly used the credit card at Poh Heng Jewellery and Apollo Nite Club. He had pawned the gold chain and bracelet but kept the two rings which he gave to his wife’s sisters in Thailand. Sum Siew Wah was made to return the full amount of $4,902.80 to UOB Card Centre.[88]

Armed robberies (1990)

On 2 February 1990, the Poh Heng Marine Parade outlet was robbed of 24 trays of gold jewellery.[89] The robbers were a group of four armed hooded men. They opened fire on the security guards who went to investigate the commotion. The robbers smashed the showcases and removed the grilles with cutters before fleeing in a getaway car with their loot.[90]


Through cooperation with Johor CID’s Serious Crimes division, three of the robbers were arrested on 26 March 1990.[91] Low Boon Tiong, a 38-year-old man, was arrested at 5.50 am at Woodlands Checkpoint. After the interrogations, Low revealed that his accomplices were hiding in a rented semi-detached house in Johor Bahru. Ong Leng Chye, a 27-year-old man, was arrested at the house at Johor Bahru. A raid of the premises revealed a .45 Colt automatic pistol, 240 rounds of ammunition, $28,000 and about 2.5 kg of gold ornaments and jewellery. Meanwhile, Tan Soon Ai, a 29-year old man, was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint at 11.30 am. Tan led the police to a flat in Bukit Batok where the police seized two hand grenades, two pistols and two revolvers.[92]


In June 1993, the three men were sentenced to life imprisonment. Their sentence was reduced from the mandatory death penalty as the High Court doubted that the shot fired in the direction of the security guard was intended to injure him. They were also given 12 strokes of the cane each.[93] Meanwhile, Tay Yang Hock, the fourth man in the robbery, was never caught.[94]


Poh Heng Jewellery was robbed again on 10 May 1990 by four men in ski-masks, this time at the Block 210 Hougang Street 21 outlet. They were reportedly armed with revolvers and sledgehammers. The robbers smashed the store's display panels to access the jewellery.[95]

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