By Pierra Calasanz-Labrador
@tinypoem on Instagram
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No longer relegated to museums, antique shops, or vintage photographs worn by your regal ancestors, traditional tambourine-inspired jewelry is making a modern-day comeback, thanks to visionary brand AMAMI. The passion project of two best friends Christine Tiu and Danielle Tan, AMAMI isn’t just about resurrecting your lola’s precious trinkets from the baul, but about continuing the handcrafted jewelry tradition, creating livelihood opportunities, and making these classic pieces accessible and affordable to the modern Filipina.
“Having grown up in families of entrepreneurs, we‘ve always wanted to pursue a business venture together; however, it was important for both of us that it would be something meaningful—something that could have societal impact. This opportunity unexpectedly came when Christine was doing field research on Philippine cultural heritage under the guidance of her university,” shares Danielle.
“Learning about the plight of handcrafted gold filigree tambourine jewelry in the country and getting to know the stories of the last remaining artisans who knew how to make these pieces but unfortunately either stopped producing or sold at a loss, moved us to take action,” shares Christine. At first, it was more about trying to help one of the most skilled artisans from having to migrate abroad and seek a blue collar job in order to provide for his family, as is often the case. But when their social-media posts generated massive interest, the duo realized they could aim beyond stop-gap solutions and commit to reviving the craft while providing the artisans with a sustainable source of income.
Interestingly enough, Christine and Danielle weren’t particularly fond of jewelry growing up. “But the first time we saw traditional Filipino jewelry, it immediately caught our eye as it was so unique and beautiful—we‘ve never seen anything like it. Its historical meaning and the narratives of the artisans behind the jewelry compelled us to continue to tell the story for present and future generations.” Their choice of brand name is a story in itself. AMAMI stands for “Ama Namin,” and represents the “Our Father” bead of the rosaries often worn as necklaces during the Spanish colonial era. “We named ourselves after this particular tambourine bead called the ‘AMAMI’ because we find that it is the most elaborate tambourine we’ve come across so far and we were fascinated by its historical meaning,” shares the pair. “With AMAMI, we decided to offer a variety of pieces such as earrings and rings since traditionally, tambourines were often confined to necklaces that were worn by Filipino elites during specific events.”
Each AMAMI creation is made of silver dipped in 24k gold (or in solid gold upon request), and meticulously and expertly handcrafted by partner artisans using the same indigenous techniques learned from their forefathers, taking no less than a day and sometimes up to a month to complete. Not merely replicas of traditional jewelry, they experiment with designs to make their pieces versatile and appealing to a younger audience as well. On their Instagram page, we spied a beautiful new design featuring tiny cut-out hearts called the Loida Creolla earrings, lovingly named after a sister of one of the artisans. “It was one of the first times we saw the artisans’ enthusiasm slowly start to come back since we met them. Hooray for little victories!”
They continue, “Through AMAMI, we hope to keep Philippine jewelry traditions alive, showcase Filipino artistry, and encourage more people to support local talent and industries. More importantly, we hope to make an impact on the lives of the artisans we work with, starting with empowering them by providing sustainable livelihood for our community of artisans, so that they can continue what they enjoy doing.”
For orders and inquiries, like amami.ph on Facebook, follow
@amami.ph on Instagram