By Marie Feliciano
A prestigious luxury jewellery house with an incredible legacy, India-based Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas Jewellers is preparing to drive its growth this year by expanding in international markets and fortifying its position as a global player in the world of haute joaillerie.
Headquartered in Jaipur – an important centre for the coloured gemstone trade – Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas has transformed itself into an iconic brand, thanks to its ability to successfully integrate age-old jewellery-making techniques, which it has perfected in the last 147 years, and innovative methods. Technology is utilised to bring to life the jeweller’s brand tradition, heritage and craftsmanship, as seen in its signature collections – Hunar, Noor, Adrishya, Aranya, Amer, Aks and Adaa.
In an interview with JNA during the 10th Signature IIJS (India International Jewellery Show) in Mumbai, Nawal Agrawal, fourth-generation leader of the family business, talked about the strategic direction of Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas in the coming years, and the brand’s unique selling proposition that sets it apart in a crowded marketplace.
JNA: How is 2017 looking up for Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas?
Nawal Agrawal: As far as we can see right now, we think that 2017 will be as good as the previous year for Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas. In 2015-2016, we concentrated more on building our domestic business and profile. This year, however, we are looking forward to expanding in international markets. We will launch high-impact campaigns involving celebrities and introduce exciting collections.
JNA: How will you go about expanding your business internationally?
Agrawal: We will be participating in major trade shows such as the Las Vegas and Hong Kong fairs for example. We have customers in many countries, and we will focus on growing our existing client base. We made quite an impression at the India International Jewellery Week shows organised by the GJEPC (Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council), which served as platforms for us to raise our profile globally.
JNA: India has quite a number of established designer brands and ateliers. What differentiates you from these equally strong competitors?
Agrawal: Our unique selling proposition is that we only produce handmade jewellery using techniques that have been passed down from one generation to another. Our collections are what one would describe as very high-end, royal Indian jewellery. We use a lot of coloured gemstones and diamonds in various old ‘cuts’ like rose cut and full cut. This gives authenticity to the ‘look’ that we want to give our jewellery. We are the experts when it comes to these types of cuts. We start with the rough gemstones to fully realise our designs. (Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas is also well-versed in Kundankari, a technique wherein layers of pure gold or kundan form a solid wedge around the gemstone, and Meenakari, the art of enamelling.)
Every design concept starts with a sketch, which turns into a very detailed drawing of the envisioned piece – from the gemstones and outskirts to the prongs.
JNA: You cut your own gemstones?
Agrawal: Yes, we do it in-house, right in the factory itself. Every little detail is carefully planned and executed. We have produced pieces that use coloured gemstones, like rubies, as prongs. It’s this attention to detail, passion for quality, and use of ancient jewellery-making techniques that differentiate us from everyone else.
JNA: What creative process do you employ to produce a cohesive collection?
Agrawal: Each collection has a theme. Adrishya and Aranya – the latter is the Sanskrit term for ‘forest’ – are inspired by flora and fauna, and make use of fancy colour diamonds, particularly natural canary yellow diamonds with precious coloured gemstones. The diamonds are uncut or are in rose cuts and flat cuts.
Amér is inspired by the architecture of the forts and palaces of Rajasthan, primarily the Amer fort, which is the only yellow monument in Jaipur – popularly known as India’s ‘Pink City.’ The collection includes pieces embellished with white and natural fancy pink and yellow diamonds, emeralds, natural Basra pearls and rubies.
Adaa, which was introduced last year, is our way of paying tribute to six iconic women from the pages of Indian history, namely Maharani Gayatri Devi, Sita Devi (Kapurthala), Umrao Jaan, Razia Sultan, Jodha Bai and Queen Niloufer.
This year, we have come up with a more contemporary line of jewellery. We do not follow trends; we set them. My son, Yash, designs most of our collections and serves as creative director of Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas.
JNA: What are the coloured gemstones that you often use in your collections?
Agrawal: We have been using Mozambican rubies since the material is suitable for our designs. We do not need thick pieces of rough. The flatter the material, the more useful it is to us. We do not use any glass-filled material. We need stronger and more stable gemstones, and for this purpose, we sometimes use heat-treated rubies.
We also use Zambian emeralds but you will also see several Colombian emeralds in our pieces. Recently, we produce a showpiece – a multi-row necklace – made only of Colombian emerald beads.
JNA: Are you confident about the future of the Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas brand?
Agrawal: We are offering something different, fresh and new to the world; so yes, we are definitely seeing a very bright future ahead of us.