Big Jewelry Dominates India’s Winter 2013 Signature Show

Oversize gold and diamond jewels were the order of business at the Signature show

Kunal Shah, director of Mumbai-based FAB Jewels, held up a necklace so massive it could double as a lobster bib—were it not studded with sparkling diamonds. “This is how big our jewelry is in India, and how big your clothes are in America.” The quip couldn’t have been more appropriate, considering the glittering display of gem-studded jewels on display at the seventh annual Signature show Feb. 21–24 in Mumbai.

Organized by India’s Gem & ­Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) and operated by the India International ­Jewellery Show, Signature showcased contemporary and traditional jewels by 550 vendors at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre. Its mission, according to GJEPC director of exhibitions and trade promotion Aanurag Dhoot, is to bring Indian firms of all sizes “to the same level” in a no-frills forum that eschews overt branding like over-the-top booth designs. “Only the product talks,” he says.

Kama Schachter earrings in 18k white and yellow gold with 3.75 cts. t.w. diamonds; $3,275

There was no mistaking the message. Gold dominates the Indian market, and larger-than-life pieces wrought in the precious metal abounded. Pieces tended to be more traditionally Indian in style. But also on display were so-called fusion collections, which imbue domestic designs with Western aesthetics (namely, greater simplicity). The latter has more potential to sell overseas, particularly in the United States, says Colin Shah, managing director of Mumbai-based Kama Schachter, which creates several brands for U.S. retailers, including One Love and Mocha (a brown diamond line) for Fred Meyer Jewelers and Riddle’s Jewelry, respectively. “We don’t do typical Indian jewelry,” Colin Shah says. “No one would buy that from us. We have a little Western influence.”

FAB Jewels is also paring down its designs for the U.S. market. Kunal Shah describes its Unrounds brand, which imbues diamond and rose gold pieces with a classic Tiffany vibe, as having a “design language that’s simple.” A more casual aesthetic is also invading India, he says: “No one wears saris to work anymore.”

Nonetheless, big and bold prevailed at Signature, where even simple gold chains were supersized. Bib-style necklaces with huge gemstones hung from mannequins throughout, and the distinctive style of Calcutta goldsmiths inspired wonder that human hands could fashion such incredibly intricate jewels. Consider us dazzled.