By Marie Feliciano
India’s major gemstone and jewellery manufacturers showcased their core strengths at the 33rd India International Jewellery Show (IIJS), which De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver described as the “face of the Indian industry” and a “window to the international diamond and jewellery trade that displays the full range of innovative and successful businesses that are the lifeblood of the domestic sector.”
Organised by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), the five-day show highlighted the latest collections and innovations from close to 1,200 companies occupying more than 2,000 booths. Spread across 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, the fair attracted more than 35,000 visitors from over 800 Indian cities and towns, and around 80 countries, the council said.
The show also launched a machinery and equipment section comprising more than 120 companies at Hotel Lalit Mumbai.
“The gems and jewellery sector contributes significantly to India in terms of exports, employment and other key economic indicators. This year, we introduced the Hall of Innovation to promote excellence in design and innovation, and a separate section dedicated to the micro, small and medium enterprises, which are the backbone of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. At IIJS 2016, we hope to increase business transactions by at least 15 percent from IIJS 2015,” GJEPC Chairman Praveenshankar Pandya said.
The trade fair highlighted the collections of India’s established jewellery ateliers, including the latest creations of renowned jeweller Laksh Pahuja who works in close partnership with Gemma Jewels. Pahuja, whose accomplishments have made an indelible mark on India’s fine jewellery sector, is known for his iconic pieces including a dragon-motif neckpiece aptly called “Year of the Dragon,” the intricately detailed Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) armlet with ruby droplets and diamonds, the “Amazon Beauty” brooch featuring three dolphins “leaping out” of the water and worn draped on the shoulder, and an ornate headpiece inspired by Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah in gold and silver, and embellished with black and champagne diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, moonstones and enamel. The latter piece, worn like a tiara, weighs about a kilo and has a majestic falcon with its wings spread out as its focal point.
“I love the challenge of creating special pieces,” Pahuja told JNA. “Once I have zeroed in on a design concept – an out-of-the-box idea – I do a lot of research – from the materials that I will be using to interpret my piece to the manufacturing techniques required to execute my design. It can be a long and challenging process but nothing beats the joy of realising your creative vision into a spectacular work of art.”
The designer said he does not follow trends; he creates them.
“For my one-of-a-kind jewellery creations, I follow my heart. I don’t consider it a business; it’s a passion,” he said. “I have a wholesale business, which supports my special jewellery projects. This gives me the freedom I need to pursue my dreams.”
At IIJS Mumbai, Pahuja presented a selection of butterfly-inspired double-finger rings with movable “wings” and contemporary necklaces and earrings in plain gold and studded with diamonds and coloured gemstones.
Another high-end jeweller who showcased its collections at the fair was Masterstrokes, the high-end jewellery brand of India-based Jewels Emporium. Founded by the husband-and-wife team of Anup and Smriti Bohra, the brand is steadily gaining a following with its capsule collections and one-of-a-kind statement pieces since its launch in 2000. The jeweller is known for its meticulous attention to detail, excellent craftsmanship and innovative use of precious materials.
Anup, the eldest member of the eighth-generation Bohra dynasty, unveiled several colourful jewels at the fair including the Opal Trinity pendant, a flower-inspired piece set with a centre opal weighing 40.93 carats, a smaller gem of 12.64 carats and 55 opals with a combined weight of 2.58 carats . The necklace, which is a part of the Three Graces Collection, is made of 11 carats of opal beads, pearls, 2.22 carats of tsavorites and 7.52 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds. Another outstanding piece is the Pivoting Pinks earrings made of pink tourmaline beads of 21.52 carats, which are connected to a three-point base, giving the earrings three sides. The earrings have central pivots that allow the wearer to showcase the earrings in three different ways. This jewel is set with 2.62 carats of orange and purple sapphires and 5.92 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds with subtle plique-à-jour and champlevé-style French enamel.
“In spite of the challenging economic environment, Masterstrokes has been producing couture pieces without letup. I have a niche market, which means I keep my collections exclusive and small. I cannot produce too many pieces since everything that we make is handcrafted and made of fine-quality gems,” Anup said. “I have a good customer base. One of the best things that has happened to us is that we have found clients in Hong Kong and China, too.”
Sudeep Sethi of YS18, a high-end jewellery brand owned by Intergem Exports, was also at IIJS Mumbai to introduce the company’s collection of fancy coloured diamond jewellery. One of the brand’s standout items was a flower-inspired ring with natural burnt orange, and canary and lemon yellow diamonds in a micro-pavé setting.
“All of our diamonds are natural, with no enhancements or treatments,” Sethi said. “We also use a lot of quality emeralds, rubies, sapphires, tourmalines, tanzanites, morganites, peridots and other coloured gemstones. Our designs are also contemporary but with a timeless feel to them.”
At the fair, diamond manufacturer Kiran Gems Pvt Ltd introduced an innovative service that would enable boutique-sized jewellers, designers and smaller-sized retailers access to standard, quality diamonds in smaller quantities.
“What we have done is come up with small diamond parcels that are certified by a third party and packed in tamper-resistant containers with a special seal. Each box has a serial number. The parcels, available in 5, 8 and 10 carats, contain diamonds of pre-set qualities and pre-set carat weights,” said Swaroop Biswas, marketing manager of Kiran Gems.
By delivering this service, the diamond manufacturer hopes to help smaller-sized jewellers grow by making it easier for them to source standard goods. Buyers only need to go online, view the parcels on offer and place their orders, Biswas continued.
The diamond manufacturer will extend the programme with the National Gemstone Testing Center of China.
Fancy-shaped diamond specialist Unrounds highlighted its four jewellery design styles or “looks” at IIJS Mumbai: Classic, traditional, solitaire and Indo-Western.
“We have designers creating pieces tailor-made for specific markets,” said Keyur Rach, marketing manager of Unrounds. “Everything that we do is backed by research and marketing, and since the designs take into consideration local preferences and tastes, the pieces are all sellable.”
Unrounds produces four categories of fancy-shaped diamond jewellery namely Basics for daily wear, Occasion for special events and functions, Bridal and evergreen Classics for women between the ages of 25 and 50.
“With each category sporting different looks or styles, we have every market covered,” Rach said.
Unrounds has found success due to its unique selling proposition (USP), he continued. “Not many markets are mature enough to take fancy-shaped diamonds but our USP has made it work for us. We use small fancy-cut diamonds, which are very affordable,” Rach said. “Of course, we also are backed by one of the world’s largest fancy-cut diamond manufacturers and the biggest supplier of princess-cut diamonds.”
Unrounds has partnerships with select retailers in India, China and the Middle East.
“In China, our designs are very simple, light and delicate,” Rach said. “The same case applies to bridal jewellery.”
At IIJS Mumbai, GJEPC entered into separate agreements with De Beers, Guangdong Gems and Jade Exchange and Guangzhou Diamond Exchange – all of which are aimed at enhancing trade partnerships and fostering the sustainable growth of the jewellery and gemstone sector
De Beers signed a memorandum of understanding with GJEPC to run a category-based marketing campaign over the key selling season in India this year, similar to what the diamond producer implemented in the US and China in 2015, said Cleaver, who was GJEPC’s chief guest at IIJS Mumbai.
“De Beers has already undertaken a consumer research programme, looking at concepts based on products that retailers already have in their inventories, and we are excited about the emerging potential in this area,” he said. “Our early discussions have focused on small diamonds, targeting the gifting of diamond jewellery to young married women, so important to both Indian diamond manufacturers and Indian retailers. Such a well-directed campaign would be a real boost for diamond jewellery demand in India’s vibrant and growing consumer sector.”
De Beers sees bright opportunities for Forevermark in India, added Cleaver, noting that the premium diamond brand has been consistently recording 25 to 30 percent national growth rates.
“We are making these investments in India as we see a huge amount of latent opportunity to grow domestic diamond jewellery sales. In fact, we believe there is perhaps more growth opportunities here than anywhere else in the world,” he continued.
Last year, De Beers established a technically advanced diamond grading and testing centre in Surat, which provides “a high-quality and highly convenient resource for cutters, polishers and traders as it offers a range of important services relating to polished diamond grading as well as testing and screening for synthetic diamonds.” The $10-million facility will be expanded to make it “even bigger and better,” Cleaver said.
Meanwhile, GJEPC, which is marking its golden jubilee this year, organised on the show’s sidelines a Jewellers for Hope Charity Dinner in association with De Beers. Although several gemstone and jewellery companies host individual charity programmes, GJEPC’s Jewellers for Hope is the only event where jewellers come together for a common cause, the council said. The beneficiaries of the charity programme were Swades Foundation (rural empowerment) and Friends of Tribal Society (tribal welfare).
In his speech, Cleaver lauded the Swades Foundation, which aims to empower one million rural Indians every five years. “The Swades Foundation genuinely has the power to transform India and unlock the huge potential that resides [in the country] as more and more people can access greater social and economic opportunity,” he said.