5 Colourful Facts About Peranakan Tiles You Never Knew

Choo Yilin Peranakan Tile Jade Jewelry Singapore Local Designer
Shophouses in Koon Seng Rd, Singapore.
Photo credits to Flickr.

Heritage shophouses - delightful, historical and full of old world charm.

These are some of the most iconic buildings in modern Singapore and one only has to walk along these conserved historical homes to experience a good dose of nostalgia.

Many of these shophouses belonged to the Peranakan community and one of the distinctive features of the Peranakan-owned shophouses are the ornately designed tiles that adorn the buildings, known also as Perankan tiles.

The story of the Peranakan tile began back in the early 1900s. These ornamental pieces found their way to our shores thanks to the British and found favour in particular with the local Peranakan community, who regarded them as an emblem of wealth and affluence. With its intricacy and artistic detail, it is not hard to see why these tiles became a requisite of the Peranakan decorative repertoire.

Choo Yilin Peranakan Tile Jade Jewelry Singapore Local Designer
Peranakan tiles framing the windows of a shophouse in Koon Seng Rd, Singapore.
Photo credits to Flickr.

While these tiles are something to be fascinated by, little else is known about their origins and story. Today we scratch the surface to bring you the finer details of these charming, sentimental decor.

1. Origins

Across the world, these colourful ceramic tiles are known as majolica tiles and were first produced in Britain, Germany and Belgium. The Peranakans in Malacca and Penang in Malaysia, and Singapore took a liking for them in the earlier part of the 20th century. This resulted in the tiles becoming a distinct feature of the Peranakan community, and thereafter known as Peranakan tiles.

2. UsesChoo Yilin Peranakan Tile Jewelry Singapore Local Designer


Primarily used as decorative adornment in Peranakan homes, they were popularly placed as artistic panels in porches, hallways, courtyards and even washstands. 

3. Patterns and Motifs

Choo Yilin Peranakan Tile Jewelry Singapore Local Designer

While the tile motifs we see today are mostly geometric in shape, these tiles first depicted oriental motifs such as that of fruits, flowers, fish, birds and other auspicious creatures.

 

4. Then and Now

Choo Yilin Peranakan Tile Jade Jewelry Singapore Local DesignerPhoto credits to @twistmeard on Instagram.

The original Peranakan tiles are made from ceramic and expertly carved, coloured and glazed for durability. This is however not the case today. The motifs are now machine printed (above image), though ceramic is still used as the base of the tile.

 

5. The Peranakan Tile Gallery

Choo Yilin Peranakan Tile Jewelry Singapore Local Designer
In 1970s and 1980s Singapore, pre-war shophouses were demolished to make way for urban development. Many of the tiles found in these buildings were sadly thrown out, but thanks to passionate individuals like Victor Lim, a number of them were saved, restored and preserved. Today The Peranakan Tile Gallery in Telok Ayer Street houses an impressive collection of vintage Peranakan tiles, with some available for sale. Open daily from 11am to 7pm, the gallery is the only place in Singapore where one can learn in detail the history of Peranakan Tiles.

The Jade By Choo Yilin Peranakan Tile CollectionChoo Yilin Peranakan Tile Jewelry Singapore Local Designer

As always, we at Choo Yilin envision creating jewellery that serves for more than just being aesthetically beautiful. We strive to add value to the Choo Yilin woman by creating pieces of jewellery that are contemporary, thoughtfully-designed and visually alluring. Our diffusion line Jade by Choo Yilin debuts with the Peranakan Tile collection, inspired by the tile motifs we have come to grow and love. Fashioned with contemporary jade as the centrepiece of the collection, the jewellery pieces are altogether light, graceful and sophisticated — thus versatile for women everyday, everywhere. Shop the Peranakan Tile collection today.