India’s diverse culture and art has been a goldmine for many renowned international jewellery brands. The trend seems to be gaining strength as designers are redefining the past with a refreshingly modern take.
Earlier this year, Boucheron’s Creative Director Claire Choisne revisited their largest special commission received in the brand’s history by Bhupindar Singh, the Maharajah of Patiala in 1928 for their 2022 collection, New Maharajahs.
Lotus motifs, turban ornaments and wedding bracelets are some of the elements that the collection references along with the traditional Indian technique of glyptics, the art of engraving on gemstone.
The collection is primarily crafted with diamonds and rock crystals with the exception of a statement multi-functional necklace featuring 9 cushion cut Colombian emeralds. The designs have been scaled down but retain a sense of majestic splendour.
India’s architecture, miniature paintings, natural landscapes, philosophy as well as heritage jewels served as the creative stimulus for jewellery houses such as Cartier and Boucheron back in the 1900s and continue to serve as perennial design library for jewellery creations even today.
Some of the most prized pieces in the world are those that blend Western aesthetics with Indian influences, patterns and motifs. What draws designers to India?
For Brazilian jewellery designer Silvia Furmanovich, her first brush with the country was through an exhibition of Indian miniature paintings Divine Pleasures: Painting from India’s Rajput Courts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Museum in New York in 2016. She was so impressed by the painstaking details of landscapes, architecture and figures rendered on such a small scale that it propelled her to make a trip to India, especially the miniature painting art school in Udaipur.
She commissioned the Udaipur artisans to create dreamlike natural sceneries, intricate figures and vibrant patterns on scalloped pieces of wood and bone. These were hand painted with mineral-based pigments made of crushed gems such as blue lapis lazuli and green malachite. The paintings were then moulded into statement jewellery studded with emeralds, rubies, sapphires, tourmalines, diamonds and South Sea pearls.
The collection, released in 2017 encapsulated her love for miniature Rajasthani painting traditions, Mughal and temple architecture, marble inlay work, rudrakasha beads and Indian patterns and ornamentation into a spectacular collection.
“When we first started out, the biggest challenge was to communicate clearly with the artisans and have them understand what I was trying to do, which was adapting their technique to create jewellery,” shared Furmanovich. A pair of mismatched earrings featuring a moonlit sky, decked with diamonds and South Sea golden pearls from the collection are her best-sellers. She has done different versions of it for clients, but never the same. Furmanovich continues to work with the artisans for other non-India inspired collections till date.
Celebrating Indian Heritage
Noëlle Viguurs-van Gelder of Van Gelder Indian Jewellery considers India to be the most beautiful country in the world, as did her mother Bernadette van Gelder–van der Ven, the founder of Van Gelder Indian Jewellery. The brand has been retailing heritage Indian jewels in Netherlands for the last 40 years.
When the daughters, Fleur Damman-van Gelder and Noëlle Viguursvan Gelder took over, they wanted to add a new dimension to their business. Since 2019 they have been creating contemporary jewels inspired by old and new India, their travels in the country (they make business trips every year) and the experience of growing up around heritage Indian jewels.
Colours and Indian architecture have dictated their collection themes so far. “The colours are so intense in India – be it in food, textiles, nature or jewellery. It was the foundation of our first contemporary collection. Our bestselling collection, the Jaali collection is inspired by Mughal palaces and architecture. We love how the latticed screens create intimacy and privacy for women’s quarters and also creates a play of light,” Noëlle elucidated.
The Baoli collection, inspired by Indian step wells was conceptualised during the pandemic. It has a symbolic meaning to it as well. “Just as it gets cooler and more peaceful as you go down the step well, you will find peace and endless inspiration as you go deeper within yourself,” shared Noëlle.
The contemporary collections are sold at their store in Netherland as well as through galleries in USA and Amsterdam. They plan to increase the brand’s retail footprint in Europe in the coming year and the ultimate dream is for it to be sold in India.
What’s the secret to their success? “We stick to quality, treasuring old crafting techniques at the same time create new relevance for old and new artisans. Fleur and I design jewellery that we would wear ourselves. We are designers, brand owners, sisters and mothers. We want our jewellery to be enjoyed and worn not just be beautiful,” Noëlle summed up.
For Ann Korman, a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher turned jewellery designer, the inspiration from India is more spiritual and philosophical. The founder of ARK Fine jewelry’s designs are rooted in spiritual practices amplified by the healing properties of gemstones that she has learnt in Vedic philosophy. A lot of her inspiration comes from her learnings and experiences in Rishikesh, India when she was pursuing a yoga teacher training course.
“The colours, the sounds, and the rituals I witnessed especially at the temples in India inspire my designs. The Ganga Arti as the sun set in Rishikesh was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I witnessed,” shared Korman.
“I loved how both men and women in India wear jewellery for its energy as prescribed by their spiritual teacher or guru. I noticed that in India, jewellery is more than an accessory, it is something a person will wear for a lifetime and it is worn with a purpose. It inspires the wearer to become their highest-self,” added Korman. Her jewels are meant to inspire, empower and uplift people.
Her latest collection Awakenings, retailed across USA, celebrates the spiritual concept behind a sunrise — birth, growth, and new beginnings. The collection is infused with sapphires in hues of pink, yellow and orange along with tourmalines and amethyst. Many of them are also enhanced with plique-à-jour enamel and have special symbols or yantras engraved at the back.
Salutations to the Lotus
Italian designer brand Pasquale Bruni too finds inspiration in spiritual elements. Lakshmi, a collection dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi’s favourite flower, the lotus as it salutes the sun, features plain gold and studded variations of Lotus petals arranged to form necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
The brand channel’s the Goddess’ virtues of light, wisdom and abundance through the jewellery. Some of the pieces are studded with pink chalcedony, moonstone and diamonds while others bask in the powerful allure of 18-karat gold itself. “Lakshmi is the beauty of lotus petals which dance in a salute to the sun,” observes Eugenia Bruni, Creative Director of the brand.
Most of these jewels do not have an Indian audience or are not targeted to the Indian diaspora. It makes it more assuring to know that there is a global audience that treasures India-inspired jewels and wants a piece of the country that we all know and love.