India has a special gift… it mesmerizes everyone that visits or lives here. And, folklores of the past are an important part of the process that makes one fall in love with this country. In my latest story written for the VO+ magazine‘s January 2018 issue, I take you down the memory lane of three Jaipur based jewellers whose families have not just lived these fabled tales but their current jewellery setups are visual telltales of these gloried pasts, in form of museums and heritage ateliers.
One of the most famous princely states of India, Jaipur, is a city for those who loves jewelry. The result of the visionary ruler Jai Singh II’s foresight, Jaipur invited numerous jewelers, artisans and traders back in the early 18th century and since then, revels in the pride of hosting many generations of jewelers that house both legendary Mughal-era jewelry as well as contemporary baubles, designed with hints of tradition and culture.
This humble story began during the 16th-century Mughal Empire, in service of the resplendent rulers, and is a marvelous tale of the finest jewelry craftsmanship today. The Kasliwals were a family of aesthetes, who had elegantly refined tastes and in-depth knowledge of Indian as well as Islamic art. They were court jewelers to the Jaipur Royal family and were also granted high honors by the British Crown. Through the great history and passion of a skilled jewelry and gem-cutting family, the celebrated jewelry house ‘Gem Palace’ was founded in 1852. Nestled in the bustling center of the city, it’s today more like a museum/atelier where one can spot antiques from the Mughal era alongside jewelry crafted with modern techniques, a juxtaposition between a contemporary style and ancestral Indian heritage. Today, it’s a mecca for jewelry lovers from across the globe and those who travel to Jaipur visit this coveted shop—some just to revel in the one-of-a-kind fine art and others to purchase one of their beautiful pieces. From Prince Charles and Lady Diana to rulers of many countries, and from Hollywood celebrities to homegrown Bollywood fashionistas, the family has hosted the Who’s Who of the world as the next generation of Kasliwals continues to carry forth their legacy.
Having adapted to international fashion trends very early on, Amrapali is a global name known for magnificent Indian heritage jewelry. This humble venture was started by two passionate friends, Rajiv Arora and Rajesh Ajmera, back in 1978. It has grown exponentially in the last forty years, reaching faraway lands and the reddest of the red carpets with their collection of precious as well as eclectically styled ethnic jewelry. With a loyal clientele that includes global royals, corporate managers, celebrities and countless awards, the passion of the duo has now transferred to the next generation, who continue to offer fresh ideas. Their latest project, Amrapali Foundation, is a museum space curated with family treasures, collected for years by the founders. Having travelled across the length and breadth of India, the young men wanted to see as much of India as they could, always collecting priceless pieces of jewels and artifacts from various families, tribes and jewelry experts in an attempt to preserve Indian heritage, which was beginning to die out due to changes in lifestyles. Apart from jewelry, the museum will also house a range of silver objects from spittoons, rosewater sprinklers, and Paan sets as well as plates, tea sets, and assortments of boxes in every shape, size and type of craftsmanship. A collection that has been available for study and research over the years will now be accessible in a museum, increasing awareness of such exclusive historical jewelry.
One of the leading gems and jewelry manufacturers in Jaipur, Gem Plaza, whose foundation was laid by the late Gyan Chand Dhadda, has created a legacy of over 60 years, for high-end custom pieces to mass market accessories. While the family’s heart speaks of heritage and a vivid Indian culture, their design team is asked to create balance and modern heirlooms. Along with catering to an ever-eager Indian jewelry market, Gem Plaza also caters to many foreign markets with their pure and intricate yet bold artistry. One aspect that shines in their jewelry is fine-quality gemstones that are cut and polished in house and that come in fun colors giving each piece a soft, feminine and elegant side. What started with two antique pieces given from father to son, is today a collection of over 2,500 exceptional jewels and artifacts built by the late Gyan Chand Dhadda over the years. As a tribute by his sons Suresh and Arun, the newly built Gyan Museum in Jaipur is a space where objects and ideas, showcase the founder’s well-travelled, lifelong journey and inspire a dialogue between the space and its visitors. The latest addition to the project is Gyan Jewels, a collection of millennial-style jewels, inspired by the timeless collection exhibited.