Designing the Unknown

Posted by Teresa Tiong on

design sketch of shark tooth hoops and pearl necklace


The Unknown hoops and necklace are inspired by the 1975 cult movie 'Jaws'. I watched Spielberg's classic when I was young, and it made me terrified of sharks. On the slim chance that I swim in the ocean, I can't help but imagine a hungry great white lurking nearby, waiting for a chance to sink its ferocious teeth into my pale, paddling legs. 


inspiration mood board of shark tooth, jaws movie, mermaid and water goddess


It is curious that the things that scare me also fascinate me the most. Although I am terrified of sharks, I am also mesmerised by their mysterious beauty. They move with so much grace and purpose, slicing through the water at startling speeds. They are the apex predators of the sea, a symbol of power, strength and dominance. Having always loved fossils and curiosities, it seems inevitable that a shark will one day sink its tooth in one of my designs.



shark tooth fossils
Photo by Carolyn & Dianne Murphy from Oceanographic
When I was doing my research, many of the tooth fossils I found are serrated with little callouses on the surface. They look quite rough and masculine. I wanted a shark tooth that embraces the feminine, with sleek smooth curves. This meant removing coarse bumps from the surface for a polished and even look. I replaced jagged edges with fluid curves to make it look more streamline. The new design now looks more modern, light and lithe. 

Design sketch of shark tooth ear hoops with pearl

I enjoy combining dark and light motifs together. The shark tooth (as the dark element) needed something light to counteract its malevolence. I decided to pair it back with pearls, which is one of my favourite gemstones. They reflect light in a soft gentle way and I love how luminous they are. In ancient lore, pearls were said to be the tears of joy shed by Aphrodite, goddess of love and the ocean. And just like sharks, pearls are born in the sea. By combining these two elements, the design touched on both the wonder and danger of the ocean. A light and dark duality that is a signature of Au Revoir Les Filles. 

woman wearing shark tooth pearl gold hoops with pearl necklace stack

When it comes to earrings, I like to design mismatched pairs because they look interesting and unexpected. Not only do mismatched earrings stack prettily on one ear, they also look eye-catching when worn on their own. I added only one pearl so that one hoop is longer and looks more dangly than the other. Though asymmetrical, there is a harmony to the design. It looks imperfect and unfinished in a beautiful way. 



design sketch of shark tooth pearl necklace


freshwater baroque pearl strands

Different pearl sizes

For the necklace, I chose baroque pearls that are slightly bigger than the one used in the ear hoops. I wanted the sharp curves of the tooth to contrast against the bulbous shape of the pearls, so that it looks like a dorsal fin cutting through foamy waves. I added little beads in between the pearls to accentuate their size and creamy lustre. Little details matter in design. I like how the addition of a shark tooth and tiny beads can transform a traditional pearl necklace into one that is more modern and edgy. 

 pearl necklace with gold shark tooth pendant on white coral


beautiful girl wearing gold and pearl jewellery stack 


One of my favourite parts of being a designer is naming my designs. The right name gives an identity and story to a piece, and brings it to life. I felt that the name 'Unknown' was fitting for this design. It brings to mind a creature that is alien yet beautiful, swimming in the deep blue dark. The unfamiliar in the uncharted.

For me, the Unknown hoops and necklace are a reminder to be brave. It has been some years since I started Au Revoir Les Filles and the journey as a designer and businesswoman is often fraught with fear and anxiety. But amidst the darkness, there is also light. The freedom to create the designs I want. The privilege to do what I love. To be able to take a childhood fear and express it into something memorable later in life as an adult. A reminder that I took the plunge and dipped my toes into the uncertain, and discovered treasure hidden along the way.  


young girl walking by the water on beach

Me, 1992


What are some of your childhood fears? Comment below, I'd love to know. 

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