How Indian jewellery is now speaking a global language

Modern women want jewels they can change daily to match contemporary outfits

The Delhi Art Gallery stood proud in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda in a three-story all-white curvilinear building. When it closed down last year, all eyes were on the golden space, wondering who its next resident would be. Probably because of sky-high rentals, the new tenant was not a flashy fashion label peddling destination wedding-wear, like so many in the neighbourhood, but a young jewellery brand that introduced to India a new design language.

This is Her Story, a new fine jewellery label unlike any we have seen in India. Debunking traditional designs, this jewellery seemed as if it was designed by a French fashion house. Tiny baubles in precious stones, in shapes of elephants and butterflies. It was expensive jewellery, but with an element of whimsy, and one that a woman could wear every day.

Jewellery and India go hand-in-hand, perhaps even more than its textiles. Indian adornments date back 5,000 years to the Indus Valley. India remains the highest producer of gemstones. Even the humblest of homes in India will have gold or silver adornments. Jewellery contributes to 7 per cent of our GDP and almost 16 per cent of our exports.

Sonam Kapoor modelling for Zoya | Instagram@zoyajewels Sonam Kapoor modelling for Zoya | Instagram@zoyajewels

Much of Indian jewellery is traditional in its patterns. But as the world gets flatter, modern women want jewels they can wear and change daily to match their contemporary attire. Indian jewellery is now speaking a global language.

Last week I visited Ahmedabad for Navratri. Like almost 20 others from the fashion and design community, I was invited by Puja and Kunal Shah, a young, enterprising and proud Amdavadi couple. The Shahs wanted to introduce their jewellery labels—Aurus and Moi—and a city that is soaked as much in heritage as it is in modernity.

While Aurus is traditional wedding jewellery, Moi uses the same techniques to create more mixed colours and patterns in modern trinkets. Much of this looks like museum pieces, vintage in its aesthetic but beauties that one can wear with jeans and a white shirt. The Shahs call Moi a “distilled sophistication meant for the woman who has a view of the wonder world and how she moves through it, while appreciating quality, wearability and ease”.

The baubles are quite exceptional. Both Puja’s training at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and her stints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum have aided her designs.

The Shahs are also putting together a digital showcase, ‘Indian Family Jewels—Indian Adornment Revealed’, that sheds light on the heirlooms of several families across India. It will also decode India’s jewellery traditions recognising its many roots—tribal, agrarian, trade and royal jewellery.

The Tata group, beloved for its Tanishq wedding jewellery, found a big gap in the Indian market when they launched Zoya, which is Tata’s jewellery line using large precious and semi-precious stones in European designs. It is for the global Indian woman who still wants to wear high-end jewellery every day to match her international wardrobe. The Tata group has priced Zoya above Tanishq, which is a rare thing to do as India’s market is primarily driven by traditional wedding jewellery. But it hopes to give India its first ‘luxury’ jewellery label that would match Europe’s Van Cleef & Arpels or Cartier. They signed Sonam Kapoor as their brand ambassador last month.

The modern Indian woman works, travels, entertains, raises her family and has a great sense of self worth. Her jewels are now a celebration of her daily routine, not an heirloom that sits in a bank locker.