Age-Old Craftsmanship Meets Contemporary Cool at Mumbai’s Signature Show

Kunal Shah, director of Mumbai-based jewelry firm FAB Jewels, held up a necklace so hulking, it could have doubled as a lobster bib— were it not studded with multiple carats of sparkling white diamonds.

“This,” he said, “is how big our jewelry is in India…and how big your clothes are in America.” The quip couldn’t have been more apt, considering the cornucopia of huge, gem-studded jewelry on display at the seventh annual Signature jewelry show in Mumbai, India.

The show, which is organized by India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) and operated by the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS), took place Feb. 21–24 at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre.

 

Intricate diamond cuffs from Kama Schachter

The seventh-annual showcase of domestic fine jewelry design, which also included a handful of loose-gem sellers, boasted 550 vendors displaying contemporary and traditional jewelry.

Anurag Dhoot, director of exhibitions and trade promotion for GJEPC, said the mission of the show is to bring Indian jewelry firms of all sizes “to the same level” by providing a no-frills forum that eschews overt branding, including over-the-top booth designs. “The focus is on design,” Dhoot said. “Only the product talks.”

And there was no mistaking its message. Gold dominates the Indian jewelry market, and larger-than-life pieces wrought in the precious metal abounded. 

Style-wise, products could be broken down into two categories—traditional, and so-called fusion, which imbues Indian designs with Western aesthetics (namely, greater simplicity). The latter has more potential to sell overseas, particularly in the U.S., says Colin Shah, managing director of Kama Schachter, one of the most industrious jewelry exporters in Mumbai; 50 percent of the company’s revenues come from the U.S.

The manufacturer creates several brands for U.S. retailers, including One Love and Mocha (a brown diamond collection) for Fred Meyer Jewelers and Riddles, respectively. “We don’t do typical Indian jewelry,” Colin said. “No one would buy that from us. We have a little Western influence.”

The company, which operates completely vertical manufacturing facilities for export-only and domestic-bound product in Mumbai,  will debut a collection of lab-grown diamond jewelry, Rox, at JCK Luxury in Las Vegas this May. “I think lab-grown is here to stay,” said Colin. “It offers a good price point, and not that many people are doing it. If [manufacturing and selling] lab-grown diamonds is  ethically done, I think it can be a nice business.”

Floral elegance at FAB Jewels

FAB Jewels was another company paring down its designs for the U.S. market. Kunal Shah characterized the firm’s Unrounds brand, which imbues diamond-and-rose gold pieces with a perky Tiffany’s vibe, as having a “design language that’s simple.” The brand will exhibit for the first time at the JCK Luxury show, where “we will show our simpler pieces.”

A less ornate aesthetic, he added, is also coming into vogue in India. “Simpler jewelry is becoming more popular, following in line with [style] in general,” he explained. “No one wears saris to work anymore—they wear Indian or Western clothes.” To wit, the company is setting up a design hub in Europe (likely Brussels) to infuse some collections with “a slightly more global look,” Kunal said.

A silk-wrapped gold necklace from Chain N Chains

Jaipur-based manufacturer Derawala specializes in everyday jewelry, including pendent necklaces composed of thin sterling silver chains dangling small charms. “We don’t do the big, bold stuff. We do the things that women wear every day; we are into youth,” says chairman Pramod Kumar Agarwal, who calls the U.S. “a consistent buyer of silver” from the company.

Nonetheless, big and bold prevailed at Signature, where even gold chains were supersized. Vasantraj Birawat, director of Chain N Chains Ltd., was doing brisk business in thick, men’s gold chains that retail for around $4,000 each. The firm also debuted gold mesh chains encasing tiny pieces of colored enamel, wrapped in delicate colored silk cord.

Gold necklaces in the thin, detailed style that’s been cultivated by Calcutta-based artisans for centuries.

Also on display were plenty of bib-style necklaces peppered with major diamonds and gems. And a few vendors showed heavy gold necklaces etched and fabricated in the ultra-detailed style of Calcutta-based goldsmiths (see above image). Think filigree-thin butterfly wings jutting gently from richly textured flowers, all in 22 carat gold.

Consider this Stateside reporter dazzled. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JCK Magazine Editor