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How this Filipino jewelry brand revived the art of filigree

By AUDRIE JULIENNE BERNAS Published Jan 30, 2023 4:20 pm Updated Jan 30, 2023 9:35 pm

Many people warn against hiring or starting a business with friends, simply because friendship does not always translate into a successful commercial union. 

But for Danielle Tan and Christine Tiu, “never do business with friends” doesn't apply. 

For them, if you do it right, doing business with your best bud can actually deepen your relationship and make work way more fun and exciting.

Art you can wear: AMAMI's jewelry is handmade in small batches; each one a labor of love that takes months to complete.
The ties that bind

Danielle and Christine said their friendship grew even stronger when they started AMAMI, a jewelry brand that celebrates the Philippines’ centuries-old jewelry tradition.

AMAMI started out as a passion project in 2017. And this jewelry brand is testament to how Danielle and Christine’s bond grew over their shared passion.

Gumamela Filigree Detachable 2-Way Long Drop Earrings

“In one of our projects, we met an artisan, Kuya Matt, who happens to be one of the few remaining goldsmiths in the country,” recalled Danielle.

The goldsmith, who specializes in filigree tambourine, was planning to leave the country to search for a better-paying job overseas so he could provide for his family.

Dominique Pearl Creolla

The last piece of tambourine jewelry he sold was years ago. The bespoke handicraft waned in popularity against western trends, and the rise of machine-produced pieces. 

Danielle and Christine did what they had to do to convince him to stay, and continue practicing his craft. Thank goodness, he did!

Liryo Calla Lily Drop Earrings
Keeping the art of filigree tambourine jewelry alive

AMAMI designs and works with partner artisans such as Kuya Matt to handcraft traditional jewelry collections—tambourine necklaces, bracelets, you name it—with a contemporary feel.

Filigree jewelry connects us to our past. And through the expert hands of Kuya Matt, AMAMI—which stands for Ama Namin—not only breathes life to the gold filigree tambourine tradition, a practice that has been around even before the Spaniards colonized the country, but also gives the remaining artisans a platform to continue this legacy, hopefully for succeeding generations.

World-class: AMAMI jewelry has been featured in Vogue Italia and The New York Times.

“His story really touched us,” Christine shared. “So we asked him to create a few pieces and we sold them to family and friends on Facebook.” In 2018, Danielle and Christine put up AMAMI’s official online store.

“Our jewelry collection is handmade in small batches; each one a labor of love that takes several days, even months to complete,” Christine added. “It takes decades and even one’s lifetime to master the craft.”

The general process starts with gold or silver nuggets being melted. The precious liquid will then be heated and flattened until it turns into fine wires, which will then be molded and shaped into intricate designs.

And the labor of love manifested, indeed, as the brand has already reached heights beyond the Filipino market. AMAMI has been featured in Vogue Italia, and The New York Times. The brand has also collaborated with rap star Saweetie, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and influencer Mimiyuuuh, among others. 

Shining the light on Filipino filigree artisans

It also helps that the two women are close with their artisans. 

They are committed to empowering, training, providing sustainable livelihood and dignified wages for their artisans, among other community initiatives.

With their partnership that can be equated to friendship, they help each other fulfill their own aspirations both for AMAMI and the filigree tradition by putting a lot of work into each design.

“As one customer told us, we create wearable art with a heart,” Christine said.

An all-weather friendship for keeps

With the success of AMAMI, Danielle and Christine have proven that doing business with friends isn't always a bad thing.

“Having an open and honest communication with each other is very important,” Christine shared.

And her advice for budding business people out there is simple: give it a try. “Because you’ll never know where your passion could lead you.”

For AMAMI, success is spelled out in so many aspects: success in helping keep a Filipino tradition alive, success in helping the minority keep their legacy, and success in building a grassroots brand for everyone to enjoy.

“The idea may be scary and daunting at first, but just trust and believe in yourself and your team,” Christine added.

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Editor’s Note: BrandedUp is designed to provide you with insightful, inspiring and educational content created by PhilSTAR L!fe in collaboration with brands like AMAMI.