Her hunt for stones could be the stuff of a Lonely Planet travelogue – think hitting indigenous markets in Colombia for emeralds, Mexico for turquoises, and Myanmar for the intense green rock called maw-sit-sit that’s only found in the local village it’s named after (in the north-western part of the country).
“Getting my own stones minus a middleman lets me control their quality,” says the Ecuadorian, whose three-year-old label Killari Jewellery gets its name from the Quechan (an ancient Incan language) word for “moonlight”.
Singapore has been her home for the past three years, and it’s where she decided to base her jewellery business after years of living in various regional cities. She and her German husband had long sought to settle down in Asia. Moving here, she says, has its perks: Apart from being business-friendly, it’s near places like Myanmar and Thailand, where a third of her stones are sourced.
“Singaporeans are also open to independent brands like mine. That sentiment extends to jewellery,” adds the self-taught designer, who started off designing for friends as a hobby. She spent a year researching jewellery labels at indie boutiques and department stores before setting up shop.
Hinting at the eclectic range of countries she’s lived in (China, Brazil and Germany, to name a few), her designs ($150-$400) are a blend of the bohemian and edgy, with stones and gems always the main focus. Among the standouts from her latest collection: a cabochon mother-of-pearl tasselled pendant that can be rotated to reveal an onyx behind; and stud earrings that resemble nails or barbed wire, yet accented with pretty pearls. Most are made by artisans in the region, though Villacis strings the beaded necklaces herself “for that personal touch”.
“Ever since I started collecting stones and jewellery, I’ve always searched for that unique or out-of-the-ordinary piece to hold onto,” she says. “I hope customers feel the same way about mine.”
Like her, her work is starting to make its way around the globe. Apart from local multi-label boutique Mythology in Club Street and online retailer Gnossem, they’ve been picked up by American lifestyle chain Anthropologie.