Jewelry Designer Kat Ong Creates a “Love Letter to the Motherland” Through Gemstones and Pearls
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Jewelry Designer Kat Ong Creates a “Love Letter to the Motherland” Through Gemstones and Pearls

Photo courtesy of Kislap Jewelry

Inspired by her heritage in Manila and Sorsogon to the bustling markets of Virginia, Kat Ong and her line, Kislap Jewelry, combine traditional beauty with contemporary design

In Filipino, kislap translates to “sparkle” or “gleam,” a word often associated with light, brilliance, and beauty. The word also invokes nostalgia, having traversed through time as the name of a popular weekly magazine in the 50s or the title of a popular rap song from a decade ago. 

But long before these cultural nods, kislap describes the lustrous artifacts and trade of pre-colonial Philippines, with earlier Indian texts describing the islands that span Luzon to Mindanao (and even up to Sumatra) as “Islands of Gold.” This same glimmer of heritage and creativity is what inspired the inception of Kislap Jewelry founded by Kat Lasam Ong, who describes her brand as “my love letter to the Motherland.”

A connection to home

Ong’s path to becoming a jewelry designer was more than a professional choice—it was a voyage of self-discovery and a profound connection with her roots. Once anchored in Manila and Sorsogon City, and now residing in Chesapeake, Virginia, the artist found her calling away from the corporate hustle. Her creative vision, deeply rooted in her Filipino identity, led to the birth of Kislap Jewelry.

“[The brand] was born out of yearning to have an outlet for my creativity,” reveals the Virginia-based designer, her motivation stemmed not only from a reluctance to return to a conventional nine to five job but also from a desire to introduce representation within her local community by utilizing raw materials from the Philippines. “I decided to blend my designs with consciously sourced and intuitively chosen raw materials such as coconut and pili shells—ethically sourced directly from local artisans based in Sorsogon.”

Lola Pilang’s Pili Necklace. Photo courtesy of Kislap Jewelry
Marissa bracelet. Photo courtesy of Kislap Jewelry

In navigating the business landscape for Ong, the path for women in the jewelry world is not without its intricacies. What’s a specific obstacle she encounters? “The collective pressure to establish yourself and prove yourself more as ‘the face of the business.’” The founder of Kislap Jewelry admits that, given her introverted disposition, this demand was “one of the toughest hurdles that I continuously try to overcome, and one I feel that men are not as inclined to face.”

The support and warmth from her local community and fellow small business owners, alongside the positive reception online, have been instrumental in her journey towards coming out of her shell. Since its launch in 2023, the jewerly line has produced its roster of best-selling trinkets such as the Aya necklace, Taho necklace, Ulap necklace, and Bougainvillea earrings—all named after Filipino words that remind her of home.

Additionally, Kislap Jewelry features permanent jewelry services, where skilled artisans weld precious metals to create a continuous loop, eliminating the need for a traditional clasp and only using high-quality sterling silver, gold-filled and solid gold chains.

For community and future generations

With her thriving Chesapeake community, Ong observes a transformative landscape: women carving their niches, shaping the future of business. Her message to aspiring women entrepreneurs is one of authenticity and perseverance. “It’s much more painless to look around you and just follow the trends and give up trying to make your dream work. Assert and advocate for yourself by believing in your ideas and your capabilities.” Kat adds that your confidence needs to come from preparation, knowledge, and experience.

Photo courtesy of Kislap Jewelry

The Virginia-based jewelry designer speaks with hopeful anticipation of a time when gender equality is not an aspiration but a given—where women lead alongside men, where mentorship flourishes, and pay parity is a standard upheld. She says, “As far as positive changes in the industry, I would like to see more sustainable practices in sourcing and production, as well as more diversity in design aesthetics and perspectives.”

As for the legacy Ong hopes to leave, the jewelry designer aspires to inspire future generations of Filipina women to pursue their passions boldly and creatively. “You can be successful, and not just in business, by making your vision come to life. I want to do my part in building a community predicated on equal opportunity, respect, and inclusivity.”

For more information, visit Kislap Jewelry’s official website. Follow them on Instagram.

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