These Filipino-Made Skull Rings Are Sold In Japan’s Dover Street Market
There’s a certain frivolity attached to the concept of jewelry. Worn by kings and hip-hop stars, the idea of being decked out in bling isn’t exactly appealing to the no-nonsense guy. Yet jewelry is almost always a symbol for something, whether social status or a life philosophy.
At the heart of bespoke jewelry-maker 13 Lucky Monkey is authenticity and passion, a reflection of the old rock ‘n’ roll and biker lifestyles. The accessories company was started in 2007 by Dante Dizon, a creative director in the advertising world, and Noli Coronado, a full-time sculptor who has created toys for Hasbro.
Without the aid of a formal studio nor regular suppliers and by just learning the art of ring-making on their own, the pair came up with its now-recognizable skull rings. In the beginning, Dizon and Coronado produced just two designs every month, rings that were made from the local silver from Baguio.
The artisanal ring-makers have gone a long way. The company now has three more team members and increased their output from two to about 30 pieces a month. They’re still creating unique pieces, and they’ve gone beyond the Philippines with clients from around the world.
13 Lucky Monkey has also earned a spot at Dover Street Market Ginza in Japan, the exclusive lifestyle concept store owned by Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe.
A little over a decade later, 13 Lucky Monkey is as inspired as ever, doing what they love. Esquire talks to Dante Dizon about their timeless designs and how they have grown over the years.
Dover Street Market Ginza was always the dream
"Dover Street Market was the dream. With the advent of social media, it was easier to get noticed—they found us by way of another jeweler who was actively watching our pieces. They liked the pieces and asked us to retail with them. We went there to launch [the rings] and thankfully we were asked to make another season for them. The international market has been receptive so far. A lot of the Japanese clients are happy with the uniqueness of the pieces."
13 Lucky Monkey's collection for DSM Ginza is inspired by mystical elements
"The second collection is all about animals, shamans, and of course skulls. We mixed and matched silver, bronze, and semi-precious stones. For the skulls, it’s a play on elements like fire, stones, and animal skin. Just as a footnote: The jewelry we make isn’t perfect. We like wabi-sabi and happy accidents. We try to keep the work as raw as possible."
13 Lucky Monkey's artisans learned through a mash-up from different disciplines
"We learned by going to various silversmiths in Baguio. Noli has a strong background in sculpture, I had a design background. We mashed this all up. We went through trial-and-error processes of buying and [using] various methods and materials—and we’re still learning."
Making every 13 Lucky Monkey ring is a collaboration among many people
"When it comes to crafting a ring, I usually take the design brief from the client, then Noli and I go through the design on paper with the guys. All the people in the team contribute to making the piece a reality. Once it’s okay on paper, we assign it to a technically skilled sculptor who executes the design."
"Most of the pieces are a collaboration among all of us—one ring is usually made by multiple sculptors. Once the ring is cast, we choose the patina and color, then we make the piece come alive using light and shade and various polishing compounds."
13 Lucky Monkey's creative philosophy is a combination of influences
"I would describe it as free-flowing. We are a collective so the design philosophy is an amalgamation of our styles and influences. We are basically inspired by motorcycle culture, low-brow art, and a mix of religious and ancient art."
13 Lucky Monkey's secret to unique design is eternal curiosity
"At the end of the day, it’s about not stopping. Being in the creative industry, it’s about an eternal curiosity or that tingling feeling that you want to create. You want to make something. Its automatic. When you stop, you stagnate, and the craft follows that downward spiral of inactivity."
"As for us, we fill our studio with inspiring things. We ride motorcycles, listen to rock ‘n’ roll, draw, paint, and sculpt. I think this curiosity has carried over in the designs for the past seasons."
The skull rings of 13 Lucky Monkey are a reminder of life
"For Noli, the skull is the purest form of the human being before he turns into dust. It’s a Buddhist belief he believes in. Personally, for me, it’s a reminder like memento mori (“remember death” in Latin). Life is short—enjoy every bit of it. Ride that motorcyle, take that trip. Don’t waste your energy on negativity."
13 Lucky Monkey rings are for people who like one-of-a-kind objects
"I think there’s no real profile, no one demographic we cater to. I think he or she likes design and appreciates art. I think what ties them together is the appreciation for the craft and the unique nature of the piece."