To Sir, With Love

Industry veteran Navin Jashnani is a man of many parts: educationist, couture jewellery manufacturer, one of the main architects of IIJS Premiere and IIJS Signature, and now an independent consultant for India’s top manufacturers and jewellers.  

Innately gifted with an eye for good design, he is credited with elevating the importance of high design in jewellery.

Meet the recipient of “The Most Accomplished Artisan Of Our Time” Award this year.

What strikes you foremost about Navin Jashnani is his composed demeanour. His sage advice, his knack of teaching gemmology and diamond grading, and training scores of students has, over the years,  motivated several in the industry to grow and excel. 

Navin Jashnani

Early years

Navin Jashnani’s fondness for the industry stemmed from the fact that his father was in the diamond business. His journey into this field began in 1983 at age 19. After graduating in Gemmology from GIA, Carlsbad, Jashnani completed his Fellowship from the Gemological Association of Great Britain, followed by a year-long course in diamond-cutting to earn a Fellowship of the Indian Diamond Institute, Surat.

Teaching came naturally to young Jashnani and he joined the Gemmological Institute of India (GII) as an instructor for diamonds and coloured stone grading. He went on to become the Director of Education in the institute, and designed programmes and course material for students. His skill of simplifying complex subjects such as geology, physics and chemistry related to diamonds and gems and their composition was so good that even a beginner could grasp it easily. This made him the most popular professor in the industry.

Focus On Design

Around 1984, he founded Brilliants Trading Company, and was among the first few manufacturers who entered into direct wholesaling with jewellers. This concept was unheard of in Mumbai, at a time when babus (artisans) sold jewellery door-to-door.

High design, superior finish, settings, prongs, and other aspects were not the parameters for buying jewellery then. What mattered was the purity of gold and authenticity of gems used in a piece. Jashnani spotted the lacuna and decided to fill that gap. In 1992, he founded Sama, a high-end jewellery manufacturing company, with the belief that designer jewellery should be accessible to all and not just for a niche clientele.

Sama’s jewellery was refreshingly contemporary and won several prestigious design awards year after year. Jashnani encouraged his design team to seek cues from other disciplines such as architecture, nature, art, culture, adventure, marine life, and so on; his mentoring skills came to the fore even here. Every year, he would send his team for a 15-day holiday to different parts of India. Sama was among the first companies to produce thematic collections. Under his tutelage, designers blossomed and several branched out independently to make a name for themselves.

Upgrading IIJS

Jashnani is universally acknowledged for his role in elevating the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS) to global standards, which are being upheld even today. He was associated with IIJS right from the time when the show was known as Jewel Yatra, held initially at the Taj Hotel and the World Trade Centre. When the show moved permanently to Bombay Exhibition Centre in the suburb of Goregaon, Jahnani as GJEPC Exhibitions Convener, tackled many infrastructural challenges and logistic issues. His aim was to get the last detail right and set a strong foundation for India’s largest gem and jewellery trade show.

Jashnani was in the committee for 22 long years and thanks to his suggestion, the GJEPC conceived a boutique show, Signature, held first Goa in 2008. He realised that holding just one major IIJS show in a year wasn’t enough to meet the growing demand. In a matter of two years, the curated boutique show had to be moved to Mumbai due to heavy exhibitor demand.

Today, in a way, Jashnani has gone back to his first love of teaching. As a jewellery consultant, he advises some of the country’s top manufacturing firms to resolve technical issues, streamlines manufacturing processes to curtail gold loss, sets up quality check labs, ERP systems, etc. He even holds courses on diamond grading for the staff of retail chain stores. And when he is not thinking of design and manufacturing, he practises and teaches yoga. Once a teacher, always a teacher!

Read more about Mr. Jashnani from the industry colleagues who know him best:

Colin Shah, Chairman, GJEPC:

I owe my career to Navinbhai for introducing me to the diamond industry. I was around 18 and was trying out different business options and it was he who asked me to join the GII Institute in Mumbadevi, Zaveri Bazar, where he was teaching diamond grading.

I have always admired his mentoring skills and his innate ability to motivate people around him.

And who can forget his contribution to raise the design bar? He has nurtured many talented designers and produced couture jewellery at a time when most of the industry was steeped in making traditional and classic designs. 

The stature that IIJS has achieved today is the result of Navinbhai’s vision to elevate the show to international standards.

Milan Chokshi, Convener, PMBD, GJEPC

Navinbhai has the rare gift of being able to think big and pay attention to the details at the same time. IIJS is what it is today solely because of this. To execute a show of this magnitude and detail, in a somewhat bureaucratic and physically challenging environment like Goregaon is no mean feat. And this could not have been achieved without Navinbhai’s calm, composed and almost sage-like presence.

No one else could create this imposing and impressive structure filled with beautiful jewels in the middle of a marsh in Goregaon East. The ability to make the best out of your resources, whatever they may be – is one of his biggest contributions to the industry.

Sanjay Kothari, Chairman, GJSCI

Navin bhai is a great human being. He believed in working behind the scenes and doing his work diligently.

IIJS Signature is his conceptualization and creation.  Holding Design Seminars and Symposiums were his ideas.

He himself is an excellent designer, but he also believed in training and motivating other jewellery designers. 

Ishu Datwani, Founder, Anmol

Back in the day, very few people had his kind of professional approach to jewellery. Most of us worked with karigars and many copied designs from jewellery catalogues.

At that time, Navin created original pieces and raised the bar as far as design is concerned.

Apart from influencing me in my early days to the value and importance of good design, Navin was and is a very kind and abundant human being.

He was always helpful to anybody who knocked on his door. He’s fantastic in the way he teaches, and is not the one to hold secrets. He would give it all, and was very open and not only willing to take you along, but happy when he saw you succeed. The best part is that he would be instrumental in guiding you towards your goal,  and won’t even take credit for it.

As a Convenor of the IIJS, he had the vision to scale up the exhibition and bring it to the level that it is at today. He had a clear vision and bold approach — he was sure of what he was doing. The industry cannot be more thankful to him for elevating IIJS to the stature that it is today.

Even today, if I need any advice, I turn to God’s good human being – Navin Jashnani…

Harshad Ajoomal, Founder and creative director. H. Ajoomal Fine Jewellery

Navin Jashnani has been more than family to me. He is the one who introduced me to the trade in my early days. He is one of the finest teachers in the gem world I have had in my life. His mission has been to share and impart knowledge that he has garnered over the years.  

During our years together as business partners, I have witnessed first hand the way he wholeheartedly dedicated his time into elevating IIJS to the next level — both in terms of scale and efficiency. He envisioned that IIJS should be on par with other international shows, and to achieve that he set about systematically working towards that goal for many years.

He also felt India needed to spruce up in terms of designing skills and he did his  best to bring international experts at design and knowledge symposiums to India for the benefit of the industry.

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