As someone who has only recently started and is trying to make her mark on the gem and jewellery industry, I have realised that this field can be as much of a rat race as anything else. Following trends, developing designs that are relevant and monitoring price-points — all these are characteristic parts of the process of mass producing commercial jewellery.
The rat race, however, makes itself evident when it comes to determining what sells and how to sell it. You could opt to keep your own design sensibilities aside and do what everyone else is doing in terms of design. And like everyone else, you could discount heavily to ensure sales. Or you could chose to be unapologetic and do things your own way. The latter will prove to be a more challenging path.
I have always believed, that there must be other ways of succeeding in the jewellery industry. I keep looking to perhaps uncover some worthy lessons and secrets to flourishing in the trade from established players and industry leaders. My constant research paid off when I had a memorable interaction with Munnu —The Gem Palace in Jaipur, an old, well established and market-leading jewellery house that finds success in simply being creative on its own terms and producing products that are second to none in terms of quality, experience and craftsmanship.
Having just launched my online jewellery brand this March, I spent a hectic couple of months in sourcing, production and all the nitty gritty of setting up a new business. As a celebration for having taken my website live, I took a working holiday (inspocation as I like to call it) in Jaipur. Nothing like re-instilling your passion for jewellery in the city that introduced the world to the grandeur of jewellery. Munnu — The Gem Palace has always fascinated me, even though I hadn’t ever physically experienced their legacy or jewellery before this. The sight and grandeur of it on the web was enough to enthrall me and make me a fan for life. So you can imagine my thrill when I received a response from Sidharth Kasliwal to my request for a meeting with him to get his valued opinion on my work. I was invited to meet him at the appointment-only studio, and I just could not believe that this was not a dream.
When I stepped into the atelier on a Thursday afternoon, I was nervous to say the least. I was led upstairs to the studio and asked to wait at the same place where I’d seen footage of Munnu Kasliwal himself making magic in the form of adornments. It was a big deal for me to just be in that room.
Soon I was let into the newly done “jewellery box” themed invite-only private studio where I was greeted by the three Kasliwal brothers, Siddharth, Samarth and Sarthak, who exude old school charm in a contemporary age. They have a reputation for blowing people away not just through their gems and jewellery but also with their warmth, and I witnessed it that day.
The studio is glazed in hot pink, the colour of bougainvillea and is accented with lotus motifs. The lotus was Munnu’s favourite flower. The kind of jewellery that the studio houses is spectacular beyond description. It took me a fair bit of time to just let the honour of being there sink in.
I was so overwhelmed that I spontaneously asked them if it was okay for me to write about this experience and take photos for my piece. To my surprise and great pleasure, they agreed.
I was expecting to receive some constructive criticism on my jewellery, which also caters to a niche market. You can imagine my surprise when my work was met with applause. “We are born into this business and we have access to the finest craftsmen and gems, but you are doing this all by yourself and it is indeed impressive,” said Samarth Kasliwal.
That meant such a lot to me. To be honest, before going live and opening my brand’s doors to all, I had my fair share of encounters with business anxiety. In this industry, design is rarely commercial and commercial is rarely true design. In a business where I have audaciously focused on design, what kind of a response will it be met with? This was my constant worry, but to have received this kind of a feedback from the ninth-generation mavericks of jewellery design, was just the kind of approval I needed to begin my journey.
We went on to talk about inspiration and design. I saw some of the most gorgeous gemstones. I got to sit at the low table where generations of their designers had sat cross-legged, creating masterpieces, many of which that are still the focus of conversations in salons around the world. I was in heaven.
I was then ushered into the private studio again, this time for a viewing of their magnum opus. “Do you have a heart problem?” Asked Sarthak Kasliwal before opening the box that housed a whopping 300-carat emerald in a heavily-loaded pearl and diamond necklace.
“How much would this cost?” I asked, to which he replied, “Don’t ask! It’s worth more than it cost to educate all three of us brothers!”
I was shown and made to wear Munnu’s signature pieces. The ones I had my eyes on since forever were the famous ‘Poison Ring’ and the 200-carat ruby cuff bracelet that is set in such a way that it appears like an enamel surface.
The house had been jewellers to generations of royalty before Munnu Kasliwal and there were custom pieces being touched up for orders from erstwhile royal families, while I was there. The “naughty necklace” – a heart -shaped emerald set in diamonds along with intricate design work, opening up to display a hand-painted inlay of the Kama Sutra, is the ultimate paradigm of the potential they embody in their craft. That visit has had a profound impact on me. Aside from affirming my belief that dreams do come true, the entrepreneurial designer in me learnt the importance of taking the path untrodden and sticking to it rather than taking detours in an attempt to seek acceptance. I recalled what Siddharth Kasliwal had said in a magazine interview, "There was a challenge in doing it by yourself and having no one to fall back on. If you fail people will mock you but I had a feeling I won't go wrong. My biggest investment has been in friends and family, who believed in me.”
Although there may be a hundred different ways to do the same thing, to find success one has to be deep rooted in self-awareness because trying to imitate others is an insult to one’s own individuality and potential. Designing without commercial restraints is luxury and I intend to indulge in it for as long as I live, in whatever small way I can.