Q&A: Mumbai-Based Jewelry Designer Nirav Modi on His First U.S. Store

The high-end brand will also open a shop in Hong Kong this summer

There was little chance Nirav Modi was going to end up a lawyer or doctor. The Indian jewelry designer grew up in Antwerp, a world diamond capital, as the son and grandson of successful diamantaires. From birth, he was literally surrounded by precious gems. 

“You can imagine that dinner table conversations would very often revolve around diamonds and jewelry,” says Modi, who later apprenticed with jewelry craftsmen in India. “From sourcing stones to performing the final quality check on jewels—these things became second nature to me.”

Diamonds are the family trade, but after custom-designing a pair of earrings for a friend, Modi had an epiphany. He recalls, “When I saw the delight my creation brought to her, I decided that this is what I wanted to do.” Nirav Modi the brand was born in 2010, and in only five years has become a favorite with collectors—as well the jewelry curators at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, who have included pieces from the brand in several auctions.

Courtesy Nirav Modi

Jewelry designer Nirav Modi

Now the firm, which currently operates stores in Delhi and Mumbai, is poised to open its first U.S. store in July—on New York City’s Madison Avenue. A unit in Hong Kong will also bow this summer.

We caught up with Modi to chat about his company’s current retail push—and even bigger future plans.

JCK: Why did you want to open a store in the U.S.?

Nirav Modi: Establishing a presence in the U.S. is a key milestone in our growth strategy as a leading international luxury brand.

JCKWhat will the store look like? What are some of its special features?

Modi: [Visitors] will discover a full selection of exquisite designs. The luminous space has an elegant and polished environment through which visitors are instantly transported to a world of marvels. The store will feature a window frieze displaying some of the most iconic collections, as well as an original hanging bridal counter that epitomizes the quest for lightness and harmony present in all [the brand’s] jewels.

JCKWhat is the brand’s long-term retail strategy?

Modi: We plan to have a 100 stores in the U.S., Asia, and Europe by 2025.

JCKWhy do you think the brand will be successful in the U.S. in particular? 

Modi: I’m grateful that I have had private clients and the reputable auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s who understand my vision and have appreciated our jewels for many years. These clients have a very personal connection to the jewels, and when they find the right piece, they just know it is the one for them. In the same spirit, I design my jewels with women in mind, the way they move, and what makes them alluring. When a woman wears my jewels, I want the piece to bring her such joy that it reveals her inner radiance.

Courtesy Nirav Modi

The Celestial necklace by Nirav Modi

JCKYou design for serious diamond and jewelry connoisseurs—what are some of your trademark pieces?

Modi: I am proud of our signature Embrace bangle—it’s a very special innovation made of over 700 interlocking parts so that the bangle can stretch over the hand to fit comfortably on the wrist. There are no clasps, and the result is a bangle of seamless perfection. We also have our Celestial collection…which suspends the diamond by the sides, maximizing the light that flows through. The diamonds seem to float, and people who see it wonder how it holds.

I like to continually push the boundaries of jewelry design and production, and this commitment to excellence has resulted in unique setting techniques and globally patented diamond cuts like the Mughal and the Ainra cuts. It is this meticulous craftsmanship and drive to innovate—paired with the finest gems used to create a jewel that delights the woman and allows her beauty to shine through—that is most important to me. 

JCK Magazine Editor