Like any other jewellery aficionado, my perception about the city of Surat was that it supplies over 85% of the world’s finished diamonds and that is the only role that this city plays in the Gems & Jewellery industry. But in September last year, I visited the 1st edition of the Couture India show organized by Indian Jeweller magazine and I am glad to say that my myth was broken. I got to meet jewellery designers from Surat who are giving life to amazing jewellery concepts every day and soon the city of Surat will also be known for its amazing jewellery designs.
The below story was written by me for the Indian Jeweller magazine’s Feb- March 2017 issue. Feedbacks and critics are most welcome.
The City of Sparkles
Beyond the Diamond Cutting and Polishing
Making a name for you in the extensive world of jewellery retailers needs much more than just beautiful jewellery. Sourcing of diamonds, talented artisans and a market to appreciate your jewels are equally important. Moreover, one city in India that has all these factors available in abundance is Surat. Preeta Agarwal talks to Surat’s famous jewellery designers about how the city of Surat contributes to their work.
The state of Gujarat is blessed with gemstones, skilled labour and phenomenal entrepreneurship in its DNA. One of its most successful cities is Surat. Situated 250 kilometers north of Mumbai, the town of Surat is famous internationally for being one of India’s best cities to live in from its highest per capita income to the cleanest city award and was recently titled as one of the fastest growing cities of the world.
It is also one of the major performers in India’s Gem and Jewellery industry. Having achieved the status of the biggest supplier of finished diamonds, Surat, a town that was just like many others in the state of Gujarat, within a couple of decades has become a name that even a jewellery industry newbie would know. While its leadership in the diamond cutting and polishing industry is a known fact and has made international news many a time over, an upcoming industry of designer jewellery is still in its novice stage but showing signs of a great future.
Charm of Surat
Most Indian city markets are full of jewellery stores but maximum of their jewels may not be necessarily trend setting and exclusive in idea. Within Surat itself, there would be at least 25000-30000 jewellers.With a city bustling with diamantaires and increasing number of gems and jewellery educational institutes, there has been a recent surge in jewellery designers in Surat. From unique concepts to jewelled stories to one of a kind iconic piece, creativity is unleashed in every form.
Amish Bhansali, Partner/Founder of Solitaires Jewellers believes that with such a huge number of jewellers in one place, also comes great competition. “Being a diamond hub, local market of Surat is very competitive. Customers on the other hand have the mindset that Surat gives them the best value for money. So, while making designer jewellery, we need to keep in mind both these perspectives,” he adds.
Anil Patel, owner of Enshine strongly feels that the city has a unique quality. “Surat is a city for worthy people.The growth of Surat has also been a growth for the jewellery industry. No charm of any kind is lost here if one is worthy.” Dilip Shah of BR Designs came to Surat 40 years ago from Jaipur. Since then he has given his heart and soul to the city, and never returned. “Surat is one of the diamond capitals of the world, which makes it the natural destination for diamond jewellery. The city has great sales potential in designer diamond jewellery. From Surat, we are able to cater to NRI clientele from the U.S., Hong Kong, UK, Middle East and Australia. In India, we have clients who come to Surat from Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Vadodara, Amritsar, Delhi, Jaipur,Vizag, Bengaluru, Chennai etc.,” adds Shah.
Talk to any resident and one would only hear praises for the local government and the help they have provided to help grow the business. From the Gujarat Hira Bourse (GHB)- a dedicated gem and jewellery park to phenomenal transport connectivity to the roads lined with numerous security cameras, Surat offers a lot in terms of infrastructure.
“Surat is the most apt city for starting a jewellery business because of easy and cost friendly availability of diamonds. One can directly source from the factories that polish diamonds here. Skilled manpower is easily available, plus all major certification labs of the world have huge infrastructure here for providing grading services,” adds Dilip Shah.
“Various companies have helped me grow technology wise and GIA institute has helped me in enhancing my jewellery knowledge. Surat’s famous diamond cutting and polishing helps us to design better using creative shapes that they manufacture,” adds Priti Bhatia of Awesome Sparklers, started in 2010.
With so many advantages, there have to certain concerns also, though not be many. Amish Bhansali feels that there are both pros and cons of Surat being a diamond cutting and polishing industry. “Pros are that being a global industry in Surat gives lot of confidence to customers about the authenticity of the product they are buying but at the same time customers are well aware of the prices and the ups and downs in the industry through media.”
Finding the right consumer
Awesome Sparklers services clients from both worlds- retail as well as wholesale. “Till now we were only into retail but recently have started manufacturing and supplying fine diamond jewellery. Surat is a competitive market with many jewellers in a small city but creative work surely stands out. I am very sensitive towards quality and transparency in work, thus, manufacturing suits me and I get to showcase my jewels to more consumers across India,” adds Priti.
Exhibiting their jewels at various exhibitions and private shows across the country is how most of these jewellery designers find their clients. This format has really helped Priti showcase her designs to the jewellery connoisseurs. “I regularly participate in bridal shows like Wedding Jewellery Show, Bride and Groom, Wedding Asia, Vivaha which are for retail clients. We have recently started participating in B2B shows like IIJS and IIJS signature,” she adds.
While most designers display their unique jewellery concepts at as many locations as possible, Anil Patel comes with a different opinion. Being a private person, he rarely exhibits and displays his work to only those who are interested. Adding to the same he says, “We have never participated in many shows except a few where we were invited and we thought the show would give us the right exposure. My business ethics and its criteria are very personal and I don’t reveal it to anyone.”
Inspiration is the soul for every design. Designers often look to find peace in their surroundings and Surat, a city that is still so close to nature and doesn’t look like a concrete jungle, flora and fauna tend to inspire many like Priti Bhatia whose unique Garden ring caught my eye at the Couture show last September.
BR Design’s Belisma and Divine Azure collection also takes on the floral theme with gold textures, use of enamel and various coloured gemstones. Working closely with Forevermark as their authorised jewellery manufacturer, they have had the pleasure of having their collections showcased on international red carpets.
“We believe that jewellery design is not only limited to its aesthetics or how it feels. Design is how it tempts you, and how it mesmerizes you. At BR Designs, each design is created intricately considering every minute details, ease-of-use, looks, to balance the comfort with the luxe, the myth with the math. The joy on the clients face and the satisfaction of having created an excellent jewellery marvel pushes the boundaries of ever-greater innovation and excellence. It’s a never ending legacy,” expresses Dilip Shah.
Sitting in Surat, one might be mistaken that these designers are not aware of international jewellery trends. However, as Anil Patel rightly puts it- “Social Media is the best way to get updated and inspired for what is good and what is in”.
Traveling to international shows also proves another way of keeping them abreast with international trends. “We have taken part in many international exhibitions like the HKTDC Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, the Istanbul Jewellery Show and so on and when we are not participating, we regularly visit the JCK LasVegas show, BaselWorld Fair,Thai Gem and Jewellery Fair etc.,” continues Shah.
Looking up to famous Indian and international designers for trends also proves beneficial for these jewellers. When asked about a few names that inspire them,Van Cleef & Arpels, Nirav Modi, Cindy Chao and JAR were top of the mind.
The Smart City
The future of Surat is looking the brightest ever.The city is going to be one of India’s few smart cities. The Surat Diamond Research and Mercantile (DREAM) city project, to be built over 2,000 acres of land area near Khajod, will boost the city’s economy and has a potential of offering 10 lakh jobs to people.The Surat Diamond Bourse, India’s second diamond trading centre, promises thousands of new job opportunities. Surat Diamond Bourse (SDB) will help turning the city from a manufacturing hub to a trading hub as well, attracting millions of international buyers in a year which is a great opportunity for the jewellery manufacturing industry to capitalize on.
All the above will certainly prove to a big boost to the designer jewellery industry and certainly help make Surat one the sparkliest cities of India. Finishing off Shah adds, “I feel it is a blessing as both the diamond cutting and polishing companies and the jewellery manufacturing companies work hand in hand to make, sell and export the best jewellery in the world; they are more of partners. In the future I wouldn’t be surprised if Surat also became the jewellery manufacturing capital of India on account of developments in the Gujarat Hira Bourse and the Surat DREAM City.”