Some people wear jewellery to add some sparkle to their attire. But then there are others for whom the ornament itself denotes an occasion, boasts a rich history, emanates artistic value, and certainly grabs everyone’s attention. This month, You & I has handpicked some of the best in the booming field of designer jewellery. In doing so, we also acknowledge the creators – their ideas, efforts, and their never-ending aspirations to create something new. From inspirations and motivations, to the latest techniques and unique designs, here are 10 jewellery designers and labels that created their very own niche in the market, both national and international. – Suneela and Roshni
Asha Kamal Modi
Designing a beautiful piece of jewellery undoubtedly requires a great amount of talent and discipline. However, designing ornaments that belong in another time in history or even a fictitious world requires special know-how. Such is the case for one of the country’s most celebrated jewellery designers, Asha Kamal Modi.
A pioneer in the true sense, Asha set out in this line of work almost three decades ago, when the notion of designer jewellery was still at a nascent stage. Despite the doubts and apprehensions she faced, this was an artist who went ahead and wowed the world with her refined and majestic creations, which offered the best of both traditional and modern styles. So far, Asha has launched her label
‘Art Karat’ and designed jewellery for more than 10 Bollywood movies. This includes contemporary designs for films like Monsoon Wedding and Zubeida, traditional styles for Devdas, Kamasutra, and Ram Leela, and classic yet grand pieces for Bajirao Mastani.
She is known for combining a variety of craftsmanship like Kundan, temple, and tribal designs, and drawing inspiration from even the simplest elements of nature, and merging them with India’s rich heritage. This trained gemmologist was also felicitated with the President’s Award for Design and the Best Designer Accolade by the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council. Asha’s work can be purchased online, and can also be found in New Delhi, Bengaluru, the US, Hong Kong, and Australia.
Born to a family of diamantaires, Nirav Modi was exposed to the finer things in life quite early on in his long and fruitful journey. Brought up in the world’s diamond capital, Antwerp, Nirav’s father was a diamantaire and his mother an interior designer. Known for putting the Indian diamond industry on the map, Nirav’s story as jewellery designer began in small and unexpected steps, specifically when a friend asked him to design a pair of earrings for her.
Today, the Nirav Modi brand is the only Indian one to have four diamond cuts globally patented. This includes the Endless, Jasmine, Ainra, and Mughal cuts, all of which are part of the ‘Embrace Collection’. However, what truly stands out about this designer’s workmanship is his inventive technique that moulds the ornament into flexible and stretchable pieces, despite being made of diamond and gold. A brilliant businessman who appeared on the 2013 Forbes list of Indian billionaires, Nirav also identifies as an artist. He finds inspiration in age-old art, the latest in fashion designing, Mughal architecture, and almost everything else that he comes across during his extensive travels.
Among his many accolades, what really attracts the most attention is not just the beautiful ornaments but the equally beautiful celebrities that adorn them. Among them are Kate Winslet, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Daisy Ridley, Lisa Haydon, and many more. The Nirav Modi boutiques are now based in New Delhi, Mumbai, London, New York, Hong Kong, Macau, and Beijing.
It all started with the curiosity of two history students, and their vision to represent the essence and culture of India by creating exquisite jewellery. After eight years of exploring and discovering these hidden inspirations in the secluded corners of the country, Rajesh Ajmera and Rajiv Arora founded the luxury jewellery brand, Amrapali, in 1978. Over the last
40 years, the brand has perfected the art of producing traditional designs on modern canvases through tried and tested, skilful workmanship.
The results have managed to catch everyone’s attention – including the upper crust of society along with ordinary folks who have a penchant for these splendid fineries. Known for working with rare diamonds, gemstones, silver, and gold, Amrapali’s jewels have found a huge fan base in the Indian film industries as well as overseas.
Some of the celebrities who adorn their jewellery include Vidya Balan, Nargis Fakhri, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Ileana D’Cruz, Kalki Koechlin, Sonam Kapoor, and Deepika Padukone, among others. The international crowd, on the other hand, includes names like Zendaya, Khloe Kardashian, Dita Von Teese, Emmy Rossum, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Mila Kunis, and more. Apart from outlets in major Indian cities, Amrapali’s work is now also available in the UK, US, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Japan, Pakistan, Nepal, and China.
When one thinks of Raj Mahtani jewels, the words that come to mind are ‘showstopper jewels’. And why not: merely putting on one of Raj’s signature diamonds around one’s neck can make you feel like royalty. Raj comes from a rich lineage of jewellers, and his creations have the perfect blend of high fashion couture and fine craftsmanship. His clients are women from around the world who appreciate vintage, old-world jewellery that is rooted in tradition. His latest collection,‘The Ottoman,’ is for the modern woman who appreciates contemporary jewellery, since it has lots of quirky influences. According to him, the ideal Raj Mahtani woman is bold, confident, and extremely modern (yet with an appreciation for tradition), and is not shy of looking beautiful and letting her personality shine.
Foraying into the unknown with the confidence of an expert is exactly what jewellery designer and artist Pallavi Foley did. She now excels in handcrafting sculptural ornaments. As someone who always had the knack for drawing and sketching, her decision to study accessory design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology was only natural. After a long and fruitful stint with the renowned jewellery brand Tanishq, Pallavi set out on her own, further exploring and perfecting her work in sculptural jewellery.
Apart from working out of her studio and boutique in Bengaluru, Pallavi also dons the role of design consultant with many Indian and international jewellery brands. Along with her contemporaries, this young designer draws inspiration from her travels, experiencing new cultures, studying nature, art, and history as well. Pallavi is clearly someone who doesn’t shy away from taking risks.
Among her many accolades and achievements, the highlights include being awarded the NID Business World Design Award for the Best Accessory Design for her collection, ‘Aamra’. Moreover, when she was approached to design the Miss India Earth Crown in 2006 and 2007, it was certainly the cherry on top. In addition to her sculptural pieces, Pallavi also retails precious and semi-precious jewellery.
Farah Khan Ali
A single unique piece of designer jewellery needs no other add-ons to make people sit up and notice, and this is something Farah Khan Ali is well aware of. The proprietor of her very own eponymous line, Farah Khan Fine Jewellery, Farah loves to work with unusual and ornate colours and stones. Her ability and ambition to try something new is what helps her produce intricate and vivid ornaments that are nevertheless feminine.
A firm believer of overseeing even the smallest of details during the making of every beautiful ornament, the brand strives towards the highest standards in everything they manufacture. While the brand has established its flagship stores in New Delhi and Mumbai, it has also made its mark in the rest of the country through retail shows in Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Ludhiana. A well-known name in Bollywood too, Farah’s ornaments have appeared at the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, as well as the Academy Awards in 2013.
Sunita Shekhawat’s eponymous label from Jaipur is perfect for women who love grandeur. Known for traditional Jaipuri meenakari work, her collection consists of handcrafted jewellery. Almost all of the royal families’ exquisite collections of jewels include Shekhawat’s jewellery. Her store was inaugurated by the doyenne of style in India – Maharani Gayatri Devi. Her jewels invoke a contemporary yet classical vibe, and the perfect woman to adorn her collections, in her words, is someone who understands art and culture as her designs have a lot of cultural adaptation.
They’ve been in the business since 1889 and are one of the most respected heavyweights down south when it comes to jewellery. Ganjam’s USP is that they use the absolute best quality diamonds, which are unmatchable anywhere in the world. The soul of Ganjam lies in the beautiful harmony of the old and the new. Their jewellery has been recognised across the world with some of the most prestigious awards from De Beers, The Gold Virtuosi, Perles de Tahiti, and Platinum Guild International. The value Ganjam prides themselves on is to produce the finest quality jewellery through unmatched human craftmanship. Their latest collection, ‘Origami’, honours the age-old Japanese tradition of Origami art, combining contemporary ideas with classic silhouettes. It is designed for the young and passionate, and it drives its wearers to consistently challenge themselves and think in multiple dimensions.
Valliyan by Nitya Arora
She designs for the bold and daring woman, and judging by the Bollywood stars who wear her designs, it’s clear that the young, modern, and fiercely confident favour her pieces. Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, and Jacqueline Fernandez are a few of her brand loyalists. The pieces at Valliyan are perfect for the young woman who wants to glamourise her everyday looks with statement pieces. Her bold and daring pieces have vintage influences, bright Indian hues, topped with a New York edge that is an ode to her time spent at the Parsons School of Design. She grew up in South Mumbai and has been heavily influenced by the art deco architecture she saw around her, and this is reflected in her designs even today. She is also heavily influenced by her frequent travels around the globe. The charm of a bygone era is what her designs primarily convey.
This is the one stop shop popular among the crème de la crème of New York and Europe during their travels to India, for all the exotic and luscious jewellery the brand offers. The Gem Palace is one of India’s oldest and most iconic jewellery houses that has been around for over 160 years. The members of the Kasliwal family have made sure that Gem Palace keeps reinventing itself while staying true to its history and traditions. The Gem Palace has created heirlooms for emperors, kings, queens, and even filmstars. The story of the Kasliwal family dates back to the Mughal Empire, when the Maharajas known for their magnificence had their jewellery made by them. They were even appointed court jewel makers by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II of the Royal family of Jaipur. The jewels are extravagant and certainly not for the fainthearted, since they are bold and opulent. One is bound to truly feel like a goddess after wearing any Gem Palace jewels.