Written for the India Special issue of Rapaport Magazine (Sep 2021)
Sitting on the cusp of a traditional and modern India, fine-jewelry brand Moksh is an amalgamation of all things Indian. Its people, processes, inspirations and products all bring forth a distinct Indian flavor, yet fit beautifully in the global arena.
Emboldened by a family legacy of over 50 years in the gem and jewelry business, Milan Chokshi founded Moksh in 2004. It was born out of Chokshi’s intense admiration for art and architecture, and over the years, it has become synonymous with stylish designs and peerless craftsmanship. The brand is renowned especially for using keshi pearls in its jewelry.
It has only been three years since Chokshi began selling to an American clientele. Today, the brand has two distinct jewelry streams that reflect the different markets. Its fine-jewelry collections — such as Taantvi, Empress and Nuur — are more complex, detailed and embellished, targeting the Indophile and the Indian diaspora. The second range includes its Bombay, Ladakh, Paro and Jodhpur collections, which are cleaner interpretations of the same design language and target a more global customer, particularly an American one.
The two categories use similar raw materials, but the former’s embellished bangles and large necklaces become delicate bracelets and dainty, layered pendants in the latter. These toned-down designs fall within a fast-moving price range of under $10,000, and though they may be lighter, they have charmed hearts globally while maintaining Moksh’s signature aesthetic.
The brand — which does all its gemstone and diamond sourcing, jewelry design, and manufacturing in India — has found admirers from South America all the way to Russia. In the US, luxury brand development agency The EAB Project currently represents Moksh.
“We are largely leveraging [the agency’s] relationships with clients, who we meet and interact with at the Couture show in Las Vegas,” says Chokshi. “We are also using digital and social media to amplify our presence in the US.”
Billing itself as “the manufacturers’ manufacturer,” Studio Rêves creates breathtaking, durable, comfortable diamond- and gem-studded jewelry in gold and platinum. Technology is this brand’s best friend, and the trio of brothers behind it — Anuj, Niraj and Dheeraj Menda — are always on the lookout for new manufacturing techniques to incorporate into their setup.
“We keep our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility up to date with the world’s best machinery, materials and processes for all types of machine- and man-made jewelry, allowing us to stock cutting-edge designs,” says Niraj. He recently unveiled a new range of products in titanium, making the brand one of the few manufacturers in India to work with the metal.
At Studio Rêves, the siblings weave dreams with precious materials, evolving the classics without disturbing their soul. They offer the same products in all countries, without adjusting the designs to fit each target market. “Any timeless design with precious metal and stones is our product range. There are no boundaries for beautiful creations. We have realized that practicality wins in every product, along with price categories.”
Familial ties with sightholder Lakhi Group — the Lakhi brothers who own it are the Mendas’ maternal uncles — make it easy for the brand to source diamonds for its jewelry. As for gemstones, the company makes sure to buy only the best from carefully vetted, socially conscious manufacturers and dealers.
To strengthen its presence in the US, Studio Rêves exhibits at exclusive shows such as Couture in Las Vegas and regularly sells its goods on online platforms like RapNet and 1stdibs. It is the agile flexibility of the necklaces, the graceful fall of the chandelier earrings, and the oomph of the cocktail rings, along with the impeccable attention to detail, that is driving its popularity in the US.
As a team that focuses on innovation, the Menda brothers believe that “togetherness has been a keen trend all over the world, and celebrating connections is the essence of our latest offerings.”
A strong sculptural aesthetic and a contemporary edge characterize the creations of VAK, a daring brand with unexpected compositions that provide an understated wearability and femininity. Visually striking, its jewels reinterpret motifs from nature and architecture, be it the lotus flower, climbing vines, or the intricacy of Mughal designs.
“I wanted to be sculptor or a couturier or a musician,” says founder Vishal Kothari. “My expression as a jewelry creator today is an amalgam of this. I have a strong artisanal bent and find art everywhere. I like to think I am a creator. To be able to create is very humbling.”
The VAK product range is diverse, eclectic and available across most global markets. The collections — with names like Summer Blooms, A Lotus Pond, The Arch of Heaven, and Architectural Splendor — are not country-specific in their styles, but do give a nod to history and design periods.
Portrait-cut diamonds are a personal favorite of Kothari’s. “With their roots in ancient Indian gem history, they were among the earliest cut diamonds. Like slivers of magic, these shards of diamonds are an exercise in pure precision and flirt with elegance and romance.”
The brand creates 120 one-of-a-kind works per year for its high-jewelry collection. Each is a seamless canvas of floating gemstones, skillfully set in minimal metal to emphasize their natural beauty and boldness. A technical innovator with a mastery of metallurgy and artisanal craftsmanship, Kothari creates new possibilities in his work with portrait-cut diamonds and colored gemstones.
For him, the US is an important market with a consistently growing client base. Known among a niche US clientele for years, VAK has progressed organically to become part of auctions at Sotheby’s and Phillips. This year, the brand formally began selling at select galleries, and most recently started offering its products via online luxury retailer Moda Operandi. VAK’s retail presence through these channels and several pop-ups has helped fuel the buzz.
“The American market is very mature when it comes to jewelry, and very sophisticated. To see my pieces being appreciated is very gratifying,” says Kothari.