Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jewellery scenario in Delhi and its environs

Jewelry scenario in Delhi and its environs

They say “the past reflects the future”, and it is amply so for India’s capital Delhi. If one were to look at the current scenario for jewelry in Delhi, one needs to understand the past glory of the city. A glory which transcends time, and goes back to nearly 5000 years. Delhi is said to be the erstwhile capital of the Pandavas in the historic epic Mahabharata founded in 2500 BC and was called Indraprastha. A village by that name did exist till the early 19th century. The description of the jewels worn by Royalty in the historic Mahabharata is reflective of the trade in gold and precious stones even then. The earliest archaeological relic from Delhi has been traced to 300 B.C.

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It was not as if the techniques developed in Delhi, but most techniques and exquisitely manufactured products made their way to Delhi. Over time craftsmen also settled down in the bylanes to offer some of the finest in jewelry. If the craftsmen did not like the environs to work, the traders ensured its supply by contracting out to the workers in whichever part of the country. In Delhi the main centres of Karol Bagh and Chandni Chowk together have as many as 5000 retailers. The export from the Northern Region Delhi and its environs can easily be worth Rs. 4000 – Rs. 5000 crores in a year.

Such is the fondness for jewelry that even small neighborhood shopping complex,  every area has more than one such market, has at least 2 – 3 shops to boast. So in Delhi almost all types of jewelry making thrives. Though organized in its own right, the trade functions in a scattered manner and to the outsider would look disorganized. Most jeweler families are hereditary tracing their business to at least 3 – 4 generations earlier. Their working is done through hereditary craftsmen who have been associated with the family for over generations. It is only rare that such arrangements are broken. 

What is interesting is that in Delhi, a cultural melting pot where its people are drawn from all parts of the country, the jewelry craftsmen also come from all parts of the country, bringing together a collection of techniques, skills, designs and motifs. Most of them migrated to the city to cater to the population from that particular part of the country. However with time, they become part of the cosmopolitan population of the city. Thus it is possible to see craftsmen from all most all parts of the country and the diversity of jewelry offered is amazing.  For example, Prakash Works operating in South Delhi are a team of craftsmen from Kerala (2814 kms from Delhi) who specialize in light weight jewelry. Similarly, Karmarkar is another goldsmith from West Bengal (1461 kms from Delhi), who operates from Karol Bagh specializing in bangles, karas (bracelets). It is these craft workshops which are the hallmark of jewelry trade and making in the city. They have their own repertoire of designs or execute designs given to them by designers and bigger jewelry stores. They can procure their own metal or alternatively the gold is provided by the customer. A lot of designers work in this manner. The craftsmen usually work on a contractual basis.

Highlight – In case you are looking for designs pertaining to a particular community, the best bet is to look up an “aunty” or an “uncle” well versed in the tradition of that community. They will refer you to a good craftsman or local jewellery of the community. Or even discreet enquiries of which jeweller they source their jewellery from and you should be on your way.
Insider Tip – Be careful to check the hallmarking on gold. In many cases it will be difficult to sell it off to another jeweller who will claim that the quality of gold is inferior. Ask the friendly source on the purity of gold and if the jeweler will buy back the gold jewellery. When selling jewellery studded with stones, the stones are never valued. It is better to re-set the jewellery into some new pieces. 

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