A bodily enhancement, the jewellery world has gone through massive changes. Undergoing reimagination, can a style statement stand the tests of time? Have ‘hype reformations’ changed the classical glory?
By: Tejashee Kashyap
Posted on: June 16, 2020
When Heraclitus said that the only constant in life is change, perhaps it’s true meaning can be keenly felt in the present period. The world is constantly crippling with new changes. However, the worlds of fashion, beauty and jewellery know the hard truth that change might give way for newer notions to be unravelled.
But, what about something that has been around for ages? Do short-lived trends or changes make a classic style lose its original grace? Mr. Anthony Lindsay, Managing Director of Faberge, a more than 178 year old historical jewellery house, says, “Customers are very keen to know the background and designs. It is the story and provenance which makes a piece more meaningful. It is the fascination with the history and legacy of gemstones which appeals to people.”
India’s relation with jewellery dates back to more than 5000 years ago. From ancient civilizations to the days of emperors and maharajahs, this accessory has stood the test of times. Not only that, but the art of jewellery also had movements like Art Nouveau that had a lasting impact on jewellery design.
The Great Indian Jewellery Revamp
India has been a fascinating land for art and designs, to the extent that the country’s history is Indian jewellery’s history itself. Since globalisation, many classical jewellery brands have seen massive transitions with the changing nuances of Indian women. Raniwala 1881 is one such jewellery house continuing its legacy since the 19th century. Abhishek Raniwala, Co-Founder, Raniwala 1881 tells us, “The jewellery industry is constantly evolving and changing as per the ongoing trends. There may be a slight effect on the ticket size of each client because of the shift from maximalism to minimalism. However, this gap is filled by giving us an opportunity to sell multiple pieces to one single-family and that creates a win-win situation for both the jeweller and the client.”
With rapid contemporization and the move to ‘chic-minimal’ aesthetics, India’s classic maximal and heavy jewellery has seen a considerable decline. The constant need to cater to short-lived trends has kept artisans and designers on their toes to redefine and reshape the traditional styles for which the country has been known for. “Our design language has always been particular about making sure that we do not forget our roots. The designs may speak a modern language but the craft is what it is and always will be authentically Indian. Every design that we create defines tradition and our rich heritage, but in a modern and contemporary way. This enables us to amalgamate the best of both worlds.” remarks Mr. Raniwala.
Another favourite among the masses, Amrapali Jewels has been playing a key role in revolutionising contemporary craft and bringing in the style of ‘ethnic chic’. CEO and Creative Director, Tarang Arora, says, “We are a very traditional-done sentiment in this country. We cater to a lot of traditional lovers, people who love the kind of jewellery we do. We redo the traditional pieces or the art or even the new pieces that we make are inspired by older pieces. We combine all of the pieces with newer components. There has definitely been a transition or evolution and our clientele loves that kind of workmanship or craftsmanship.”
Even though Amrapali caters to revamping traditional blings with modern techniques, its DNA, very well, reflects Indian ethnicity. “We are definitely interested in defining and shaping what is authentically Indian. And I think that is what we have been doing regularly for years,” he remarked. Jewellery buyers might be moving towards everyday wearable and light jewellery, but historically, the design language should channel the roots of one’s country, and package or beautify it in a modern sense, to spells success in the market. This is what a good balance is and what people need today. Mr. Arora also shares, “Less is obviously the idea here and is becoming the norm. Also, you have to understand that heavy jewellery denotes lots of gold, or lots of precious metal, which is very important for investment. You can see what has happened to gold during COVID time. Everything has gone down across the world but not precious metals. The heavier look is going to be used as an investment. People like if they're buying for both investment and variability. So from that mentality, definitely larger jewellery is better. I think people are getting more aware that if it is styled in a subtle manner, it is better. That will help this whole idea and heavy jewellery is still here to stay because it's part of our looks and tradition.”
The Shaadi Saga
We are known for our big fat Indian weddings. All the glitter and merriment, the elaborate sparkling beauties, large rubies and emeralds mark the beauty of weddings here.
Indian jewellery houses have a deep emotional connection to bridal bling. Many labels solely cater to the wedding market – jewellery that is saved and treasured for the next generation. Mr. Raniwala says, “Our main forte is bridal jewellery and that makes the maximum of our clients to be either bride, brides’ mothers or their immediate families. Back in the day, the decision-maker for jewellery purchasing was mainly the parents and their priority was to make a statement in the society with jewellery.”
Bridal jewellery has always been about traditional heirloom jewellery, but in recent times, with an upsurge of the ‘modern Indian bride’, minimal opulence has been given preference over oversized heavy jewellery. So, how is the traditional, family-affair led bridal jewellery keeping in pace with the global trend? Mr. Raniwala shares, “Any Indian bride, no matter how much of global exposure she has, always comes back to her roots for her big day. Bridal Jewellery has been redefined to being modern and minimal, but we as jewellers have been able to successfully create a mix of both traditional and contemporary designs, so as to make sure that the bride feels both rooted in her tradition and at the same time feels in line with the global trends. Today, the brides are independent millennial women who are in line with the latest trends and are always looking for a complete look for their big day. This has made design as the top priority along with the piece being sustainable and something that can be worn in multiple ways post the wedding.”
Bridal conversations without pearls are useless. They are often the gem of choice for brides. International fine jeweller Zaabel‘s pearl collection is curated exclusively with talented craftsmen in India and is handmade. Co-founder Sooryia Tharayil tells, “Pearl is a staple in India’s bridal jewellery segment. They are used as dangles, layered and strung as tassels in wedding jewellery in India. The danglers accentuate and give more volume to neckwear or earring. Micro pearls are twined and studded closely to achieve intricate surface texture. Pearls are also layered along with emerald beads and other precious gemstones to create Haar (long layered necklace).” Be it Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s with four strands of pearl or Bunny MacDougal in Sex and the City with pearls that defined her aristocratic character, a strand of pearl always implied superiority, an armour for glamour and ticket to sophistication.
With the wedding season on the radar, Vandana Jagwani, creative director for Mahesh Notandass jewellery shares some trends in bridal jewellery: “The shift in thinking and lifestyles of millennials has occurred in India as well. With the changing profile of a modern-day bride, jewellery is trending towards diamond jewellery. Brides now not necessarily look to wear necklace sets all the time. We create a lot of necklaces that are not oversized as a piece but instead a wearable necklace with big sized diamonds. These look minimal but also feel opulent. Brides get a high-quality piece which is precious to them and is more timeless and wearable in the future.”
Recently, India got its first lab-grown house of diamonds by designer Vandana Jagwani titled ‘Vandals’. It combines iconic Mahesh Notandass styles with her own contemporary signature. “Creating diamonds in the lab was a concept in the works from the 1940s. Diamond roughs below the earth’s surface are formed due to carbon dioxide reacting to the extremely high temperature and pressure. Similarly, using cutting edge technology, diamond roughs are created in the lab by replicating these conditions in the controlled environment of a laboratory. Once the diamond rough is created in the lab, the stone follows the same processes and chain of cutting and polishing as a mined diamond rough, eventually giving us the same shape and a beautiful gem.” she says.
Edgy colour pops, whimsical brooches and rings, bold chokers form the likes of progressive millennials. Today’s audience is confident, aware and adaptive to technology and change. As consumers are fast moving towards ethical, sustainable trinkets, lab-grown diamonds are more kind to the environment and competitively priced. “Lab-grown diamonds are very much as authentic as mined diamonds. They are chemically, physically and optically exactly same as mined diamonds. They too come in various colours and clarities. The same 4Cs (carat, clarity, cut, and colour) are the factors that occur in lab-grown diamonds as well. The only thing that makes a lab-grown diamond different is the origin of the rough diamond. Millennials are more environmentally conscious and aware. They are also more financially intelligent about their spending. They are revolutionizing the jewellery industry and consumer purchases.” says the confident designer.
To Bling or Not to During the Pandemic?
The pandemic crisis has put either some of us on hold or some eager to start on a holistic approach towards life. The constant bombardment of photos under ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go’ has left most of us questioning - is it odd to be talking about ornaments and blings right now? But, as you see, fashion and jewellery have been an important saga for emotional upliftment. But would the virus also unfold new defining trends in jewellery? Guiding us, Mr. Raniwala says, “The current scenario with COVID-19 is affecting the world in a big way. Consumers will be going back to basics and will look for minimal, sustainable jewellery with value for money. Since the main focus will be on investment more than anything else, people will be looking to spend their money on buying jewellery that is not unusually loud and can be worn in multiple ways. Hence, minimal yet multiple usages, sustainable jewellery will be the upcoming trend in the market.”
The situations around us have made us question our choices and preferences constantly. More than anything, consumerism is moving towards up-cycling, materials that can be easily and fully recycled or biodegraded, working for a smaller environmental footprint. Ms. Tharayil is of the same view: “With the current ongoing situation, we see a gradual shift to sustainable fashion. With meetings shifting to Zoom, there is a widened scope to experiment with minimalistic or everyday jewellery. There are many brands doing interesting everyday jewellery. I feel that there will be an eventual evolution where the minimalistic trend might get influenced by 'Artivism'- art with activism. Social aspects will be more visible in all art forms - including jewellery. The key is to make the design differentiated and include interesting techniques so that there is value addition and increased brand recall.”
The modern jewellery clientele is much more focused on individuality and finding a truly unique gemstone that speaks to them. Mr Lindsay of Faberge guides, “I think it is this search for differentiation and individuality that drives a new type of jewellery clientele. These are clients who are interested in buying things which stand out, are less common (and also less known) and as such also serve as a talking point.” The right balance shall always be the inspiration from our past to create pieces of the future and feature some aspect of modernity to appeal to today’s discerning clients.