India

Why the Gem Palace of Jaipur Remains One of the World’s Most Exceptional High Jewelry Ateliers

Why the Gem Palace of Jaipur Remains One of the World’s Most Exceptional High Jewelry Ateliers

The sunburst necklace with strands of Keshi pearls is set with rose-cut diamonds and a Colombian emerald weighing over 300 carats. The Serpentine bracelet is set with 36 carats of diamonds, and the earrings set with rose-cut diamonds and Colombian emeralds weighing 150 carats, all from the Indo-Russian collection. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
A riveting journey of royal opulence and power, India’s love affair with gems and jewelry is unparalleled. Once upon a time, the Indian landscape had it all — the rarest of sapphires from Kashmir; the highest grade diamonds from the mines of Golconda; and flawless emeralds from Columbia brought by the Portuguese who controlled the ports of Goa. It is said that the story of Indian jewels runs across 500 years of turbulent Indian history — replete with operatic tales of power, fortune, mystery, and murder; and of course, the rise and fall of great empires.
For the royal Mughals and Maharajas of the time — bedecked in an extraordinary display of gold and precious stones — jewelry was not simply a signifier of kingship, but had talismanic properties implying cosmic connectivity. These ensured health, fortune, military prowess, and longlasting imperial power. During the British Raj, Europe was besotted by the gems and metals from India — the finest in the world — brought to Paris by Indian royalty to reset gems from their illustrious treasure chests. In his book The Master Jewelers, Alain Boucheron recounts the fascinating tale of a maharaja who “arrived at Boucheron in 1927 accompanied by a retinue of 40 servants all wearing pink turbans, his 20 favorite dancing women, and, most importantly, six caskets filled with 7,571 diamonds, 1,432 emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and pearls of incomparable beauty.” Jacques Cartier built an extraordinary relationship with the Maharaja of Patiala, one of the maison’s greatest clients, who commissioned the jeweler to reset his crown jewels — one of the largest single commissions in Cartier’s history. The piece de resistance was the Patiala ruby choker, created by Cartier for the Maharaja, which married 292 ruby beads with panels comprising 132 threaded pearls, and clasps featuring 120 diamonds and rubies set in platinum.
From left: Sarthak Kasliwal, Sudhir Kasliwal, Samarth Kasliwal, Samir Kasliwal, and Amod Kasliwal are the new generations presiding over the legacy and future of the celebrated jewelry house. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
Amid all these stellar European jewelers, the Kasliwals of India had a more profound relationship with their country’s royalty. Their journey as the celebrious jewelers for the Mughals, the harbinger of the Golden Age of Indian jewelry, began long before the British Raj. Over 300 years, the Kasliwals became renowned for their impeccable designs and innovation, and made-byhand craftsmanship valued for the time and intricacy of workmanship by the royal patrons. In 1725, when Jaipur was being built as the epicenter of art and culture, the exemplary founder Maharaja Jai Singh II invited the Kasliwals to work from within the hallowed walls of the City Palace as the crown jewelers. With this appointment, the fate of the Kasliwals and the city of Jaipur were forever entwined.
In 1852, the bustling thoroughfare of Mirza Ismail Road in Jaipur became the home of Gem Palace, one of the most iconic Indian jewelry ateliers in the world. To date, for the Kasliwals, the Pink City remains their eternal muse. To paint a picture of the fabled Gem Palace is to first cast an eye over the beguiling extravaganza of Jaipur, brimming with gems and spectacular palaces; a jeweled portal that, through history, enticed many to travel to India from faraway lands. For the Kasliwals, jewelry craftsmanship was and is poetically influenced by Jaipur. They perfected the technique of Meenakari enameling inspired by the Shekhawati frescoes of traditional buildings, gently mimicking the lucidity of the jali trellis windows of the Hawa Mahal, the matrix upon which natural diamonds adorn the legendary turban ornament known as the Sarpech. The craft of Kundan can be seen in the elaborate cuffs from the atelier. In one exquisite design, 138 carats of precious stones cover the cuff’s exterior, which features a design of lotus flowers with diamond petals and emerald sepals. The interior of the bangle is enameled — traditional Indian floral motif indented onto the 23-carat gold body of the cuff. Then there is the Gupti, a concealed dagger with a diamond tipped scepter embedded with gems, and a pill box with rosecut diamonds on its head. It took seven years to craft this objet d’art. Karigars or artisans use exacting traditional techniques passed down by their forefathers, many of whom worked at the Gem Palace.
This statement necklace (worn as a headpiece) with its fabric-like fluidity is set with 285 carats of rose-cut diamonds with intricate linking at the rear, painstakingly created over three years. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
With this level of technical finesse and extravagant designs, Gem Palace earned the stamp of authority as one of the finest ateliers in the world, and was embraced with much aplomb by maharajas and maharanis, viceroys, first ladies of governments, and Hollywood celebrities. The Vicereine of India, the Marchioness of Linlithgow famously appointed Gem Palace as her official supplier of fine jewelry; and her successor, the last British Vicereine Lady Mountbatten, a staunch patron of the Kasliwals, was present alongside Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and future Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to celebrate 100 years of the Gem Palace in 1952.
A letter from John Kenneth Galbraith, US ambassador to India (1961 — 1963) thanking Gem Palace for gifting a bracelet to First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
Today, Gem Palace has a legacy of nine generations of Kasliwals who have held the jeweled scepter of creative excellence one generation at a time with unwavering pride and honor. The two formidable scions of the family, brothers Munnu and Sanjay, played a pivotal role in the saga of modern-day Gem Palace. With disarming charm, incandescent passion, and impeccable hospitality, they endeared themselves to anyone who entered their Jaipur atelier, from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Diana, and Prince Charles, to Elton John, and Angelina Jolie. The brothers, now deceased, left behind a labyrinth of loyal customers of the finest families in the world, including lessons to their successors — sons, daughters, and nephews — in the values of familial responsibility and passionate engagement, the hallmarks of true success. The present-day principals of Gem Palace are a crew of young bon savants, globe-trotting jewelry aficionados, as comfortable on their Rajasthani home turf as they are in the razzmatazz metropolises of the world. Siddharth and Samarth (Munnu Kasliwal’s sons), Samir (Sanjay Kasliwal’s son), and Sarthak (son of Amod Kasliwal) — are equally energized for a future as bright as the diamonds in their atelier. Each is effusive about their family legacy and the storied provenance of the jewels. Their sentiment for their profession is personal and emotional. “Jewelry and stones should bring you happiness. We believe in the magical bond between creator and wearer,” says Siddharth, the eldest of all. “In today’s world of fast fashion and hyper commercialization, our business will continue to honor the true legacy of Gem Palace: authentic craftsmanship, steeped in the ethics of slow, mindful production of exquisite works of art.” Adds Samarth, “Compromising on generations-old, made-by-hand skills is just not an option. Our passion for our business is to amplify these values, not as a marketing tool, but as our family’s true collective passion.”
This necklace set with rubies, emeralds, and rose-cut diamonds is paired with Karna Phool earrings from the traditional Mughal collection. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
Sixth generation Samir Kasliwal grew up with Indian and Italian grandfathers, both prolific jewelers. When he was 22 years of age, he spotted Gem Palace jewelry on Marella Agnelli, wife of the Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli. Made by his Indian ancestors, the necklace featured a staggering array of gems: 16 carats of diamonds, 1,826 carats of natural rubies, 626 carats of emeralds, and 160 carats of pearls. “Perfection and elegance in simplicity,” says Samir of the piece. “We never forget the work of our extended family — the artisans who commit themselves to our success. Just as we have inherited our skills and dreams of our fathers, similarly the artisans have inherited the same from their own. Many family-run businesses turn into corporations, but we have chosen to stay true to our roots, and it works very well for us.” It is amply evident that making jewelry is a part of their family tradition and each member is ready to state that it’s not a job, but a lifestyle. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we have been able to grow globally generation-after-generation, with enough operational structure that gives us scale that we are content with,” says Siddarth. “What truly matters is that we continue to maintain a strong family bond and company culture. Adds Samir, “Each member in Gem Palace, from partner to artisan, brings a unique perspective to the table, as well as their own personal network into the business.”
Bangle and rings set with rose-cut diamonds from the Indo-Russian collection. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
Sarthak Kasliwal is the youngest in this family partnership. For him the bespoke experience Gem Palace brings to their clients is of utmost importance. “Enter our atelier in Jaipur, and at least one of our family members will be there to greet and engage with you, like a family member. The loyalty of our repeat clients is based on friendship and trust,” says Sarthak. He savors the moments when the clients unfold the wrapping and experience the visceral joys — the touch and feel of the diamond, what he calls “a true pleasure for the wearer. It is in this continuous metamorphosis of thoughts and ideas that we see inspirational adaptation and change. The story of Gem Palace, therefore, is simultaneously revival and renewal.” Adds Siddarth, “We understand the depth of passion and intimacy that beautifully designed jewelry can evoke.” Walking past the extraordinary collections deeply inspired by Indian art, Mughal architecture, Byzantine and Greco-Roman ornamentation, and some pieces that took close to four years to complete, Gem Palace is indeed a gateway to an enchanting world of beauty, offering jeweled wings to the imagination.
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Vijayeeta ShahMakeup: Shraddha AnandHair: Dilip SisodiyaModel: Vijayshree ShaktawatStyle assistant: Vaishali Sharma
Read Next: How India and the Middle East Have Influenced Each Other’s Fashion Industries Over the Years

How India and the Middle East Have Influenced Each Other’s Fashion Industries Over the Years

How India and the Middle East Have Influenced Each Other’s Fashion Industries Over the Years

Deepika Padukone in Saudi’s Ashi Studio. Photo: Courtesy of Ashi Studio
When one considers everyday dress in India, the salwar — a pair of loose-fitting, drawstring trousers, and the kameez — a tunic worn with a dupatta — a scarf also used as a head covering — probably come to mind. The roots of this dress style can be attributed to Persia, home of the Mughals, the Muslim dynasty that ruled India from the early 16th to the mid-18th century. The Arabian Gulf played an important role, too. The two regions not only have a geographic proximity to each other, but have been trading partners for centuries. The fact that the word kameez comes from Arabic is one such proof. India has always been known for its textile traditions, and its goods would reach central Europe via the ports of the Gulf. Scientists from the Museum of Natural History in Paris, while examining remnants from UNESCO world heritage site Mleiha, found that the earliest cotton in the Arab world came from Northwestern India, and the oldest surviving pieces of chintz, a calico cloth decorated with woodblock prints that became popular in Europe in the 1600s, was found in Egypt. Textiles, crafts, and silhouettes from India became a source of inspiration, with many of the mirror and metal embroidery forms in Arab dressing traditions influenced by savior fair coming from its South Asian trading partner. In turn, the motifs and decorative forms of this region began to influence embroidery patterns in India. The cultural exchange between the two is ancient and can still be seen today.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan wears a dress by Lebanon’s Elie Saab. Photo: Getty
Contemporary Indian designers have been borrowing and showing their appreciation of the Middle East for years. Rohit Bal, known as the enfant terrible of Indian fashion, made the jalabiya part of his design repertoire since his early days in the 1990s. Manish Malhotra, Bollywood’s go-to costumer, designed his 2018 couture collection ‘Zween’ in celebration of Middle Eastern culture. Meanwhile, Indian Gen Z’s favored silhouette is the kaftan. In return, the Middle Eastern region has welcomed Indian designers with open arms; fashion shows and pop-up events are regularly hosted in the region.
Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in Indian couturier Manish Malhotra’s 2018 ‘Zween’ couture collection
When Indian celebrities are looking to make a statement on the red carpet at international events, time and again they turn to designers based in the Middle East. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is known for her love of Michael Cinco and Elie Saab, and Priyanka Chopra has been photographed in Zuhair Murad on multiple occasions. Deepika Padukone, who wore a custom-made Zuhair Murad gown to her wedding reception in 2018, stepped out onto this year’s Cannes Film Festival red carpet wearing an orange, one-shoulder gown by Ashi Studio. It was her most well-received look of the festival. The Paris-based Saudi label has been worn by many well-known Indians including Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and heiress Isha Ambani. “There is a similar aesthetic in terms of taste and culture, and both regions love their glamor,” comments the couturier. Celebrity stylist Shaleena Nathani who styles Padukone, adds, “The region has a strong love of Bollywood, so they have a good understanding of our celebrities and occasions, and this does help. As a stylist, the reason I turn to Middle Eastern designers is because of their cut, it flatters an Indian body.” She chose the Ashi dress as it had drama, something she considers essential when walking the red carpet, and was both sensual and modest. This is a balance Middle Eastern designers have always understood.
Priyanka Chopra wears Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad. Photo: Getty
One such designer is Reema Ameer, who is of Sri Lankan and Lebanese descent. She moved to Dubai 16 years ago, working from her studio at home in Dubai. Nathani notes that both regions have a heritage of craftsmanship and bespoke detailing, an important binding factor between the dressing styles. Nathani recently received much attention in India as actress Neetu Kapoor, the mother of actor Ranbir Kapoor, has been wearing her designs on repeat. “If European clients are more understated and individual in their approach to style, the Middle Eastern and Indian markets prefer a more groomed image. In that vein, there is a shared appreciation for hand-crafted textiles from beadwork to embroidery, which automatically ups the luxe factor, too. My Arab and Indian clients share a love for color and sparkle. I would say that they are both daring in their sense of style, and always open to trying new things.”
On the other side of the Arabian Sea are the Indian designers for whom the Gulf is almost an extension of their own market, with many Indian designers looking to open stores in Dubai, and seeking to make in-roads into Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi. Designers Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra, and Suneet Varma all come to the region to host pop-ups, with Mukherjee’s jewelry instore at Dubai-based concept, Bayt Damas. Mumbai-based Anita Dongre, one of India’s most successful designers, who retails on the Ounass platform and has participated in pop-ups in the Gulf, comments, “This is a region where old-world traditions and charms meet cutting-age technology and lived experiences. Like India, there is a value for culture and tradition, but people are also happy to celebrate 21st-century progress and modernity. There is an overlap in both regions’ dressing styles.” Delhi-based Rajdeep Ranawat, who retails in a multi-brand boutique in Dubai’s Jumeriah and who is also part of the Ounass edit, adds, “There is a vast South Asian community living here today, they are bound to visit boutiques and exhibitions for their social wardrobe essentials.” This explains why pop-ups in cities like Dubai, Doha, and Riyadh are now a part of an Indian fashion designer’s calendar. Ranawat says the UAE alone accounts for 15% of his turnover, and that today, many of his clients are Arab. Since Indian designers are open to making customized changes and have a tendency to be more modest in their approach to designs, their fashion is appreciated. “The Middle East is an important fashion hub for Indian designers,” he asserts. Given the historical relationship between the two regions and similarities in approach to dressing, it is a very natural relationship. As both India and the Middle East continue to affirm themselves as leaders in the fashion space, their long-term affection for each other will only help them thrive.
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Read Next: An Ode to Pink and India-Middle East Ties: Inside Vogue Arabia’s July/August 2022 Issue

An Ode to Pink and India-Middle East Ties: Inside Vogue Arabia’s July/August 2022 Issue

An Ode to Pink and India-Middle East Ties: Inside Vogue Arabia’s July/August 2022 Issue

Nour Rizk and Sawai Padmanabh Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur. Vogue Arabia July/August 2022. Photo: Nishanth Radhakrishnan
The July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia is an ode to pink, and the centuries-old relationship between India and the Middle East, featuring on the cover Sawai Padmanabh Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur.
The cover story takes a deep dive into the fascinating life of 24-year-old Sawai Padmanabh Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur and a recent graduate of art history and Italian at the Università e Nobil Collegio Sant’Eligio in Rome. His accolades are many, from leading public celebrations such as Holi and Diwali in official duties, to representing India in 2017 at the Polo World Cup zonal playoffs in Iran, the youngest player to do so. We journey through a day with the royal at his ancestral abode, the nearly-300-year-old City Palace, following in the footsteps of aristocrats and warriors to learn of its storied history, unique provenance, and enduring royal heritage. “I consider myself very lucky and fortunate that I was born into this family, but that doesn’t mean I am entitled or that I can get away with things others can’t,” the Maharaja shares. “My parents, and especially my grandmother, have always made sure that we know we still have to live our own lives and find our place in this world, work hard, and not take things for granted.”
Gem Palace jewelry. Vogue Arabia July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma
This issue also goes on a sensory excursion through the vibrant streets of Jaipur with 30 pages of fashion shot against the backdrop of the most iconic landmarks in the ‘Pink City’ – as Diana Vreeland so astutely stated, “pink is the navy blue of India”. From the historical red sandstone walls of Jaigarh Fort to the 11th-century stepwell Panna Meena Ka Kund, a modern storytelling of fashion collides with the legend-saturated fables of history in this celebration of rich Rajputana culture. We also visit the magnificent world of Gem Palace, renowned jewelers to the Jaipur royal family who, over the decades, have endeared themselves to everyone from Lady Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Elton John, and Angelina Jolie.
Nour Rizk in Jaipur, India. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Nishanth Radhakrishnan
“Pink is literally everywhere in the fashion season, and I could not think of a better arena than the Pink City itself to stage this blooming extravaganza,” says Manuel Arnaut, Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief. “But more than a chromatic exercise, this issue also serves to highlight the strong link between the Gulf countries and India. Over centuries, the two regions have been influencing each other in a creative tango that touches the fields of economy, food, art, architecture, entertainment, and fashion.”
Vandana Sudhir. Vogue Arabia July/August 2022. Photo: Ankita Chandra
The issue also meets Vandana Sudhir, wife of the Indian Ambassador to the UAE. She reflects on a life well-lived in the Arab world: “Moving to the UAE has been so exciting. My husband has previously worked in the oil sector, and the two countries have a very strong historical connect — we were on the same trade route and have been trading partners for centuries. There are so many commonalities in our way of life, history, and culture.”
Rami Kadi. Vogue Arabia July/August 2022. Photo: Nicholas Mastoras
Emphasizing the art of traveling, the latest issue of Vogue Arabia also documents an escape to Athens with Rami Kadi, where he spends the day at the Zappeion Megaron. As the guest of honor, the designer closed the 30th Athens Xclusive Designers Week with a couture show featuring 43 dresses from the Spring/Summer 2022 Couture Collection, ‘Lucid Algorithms’.
Biarritz is our next stop, with its surfer shores and picturesque fisherman villages beckoning to hordes of French and European travelers. It is also home to The Hôtel du Palais, which was once the childhood playground of Empress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Emperor Napoleon III of France. In the same vein of celebrating royalty, we fly to the sandy landscapes of Oman to discover the unique relationship between the Sultan of Oman and haute perfume maison Henry Jacques. Inspired by the desert and Oman’s history, its new flagship boutique in Paris features eight one-of-a-kind fragrances in flacons covered in 18-carat gold, solid silver, jeweler’s enamel, and encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones.
Read Next: How the Luxury Design House of Sabyasachi is Bringing India’s Rich Heritage to the World

Shop from These Brands to Help India Fight its Covid-19 Crisis

Shop from These Brands to Help India Fight its Covid-19 Crisis

AMPM. Photo: Instagram/@ampmfashions
The year 2020 has proved that in times of crisis, fashion brands and creatives often find themselves at the forefront of fundraising for relief movements. Not much has changed for India in 2021, as it battles a second wave of Covid-19, both big and small brands are responding to the catastrophe.
According to India’s healthy ministry data, the country recorded its highest death toll in a single day with 4,329 fatalities in the last 24 hours on May 18, bringing the total to a grim 278,719. The number of total cases also passed the 25 million mark on Tuesday out of which 3,353,765 are active.

Initiatives taken by India’s fashion industry range from safeguarding workers in their ateliers to raising millions by donating fractions or 100% of sales to organizations working on the ground. “Our response to the pandemic and the assistance required, was a natural reaction,” shared Haresh Mirpuri, founder of conscious luxury brand Aranyani with Vogue India. His accessory brand is one of the many emerging ones to donate a percentage of profits, as well as provide its workers with medical insurance and food.
Mirpur added that they kept “efforts focused on who we could assist in a timely fashion. That was our craftsmen and the community immediately in the vicinity of our atelier. In doing so, the only aim has been to help fellow-countrymen in need.”
Below, a list of brands that you can shop from to help Covid-19 relief efforts in India.
AMPM

Until June 15, Ankur and Priyanka Modi are donating 30% of their label’s sales to the Give India initiative which is raising funds for access to vaccination.
Arpita Mehta

Throughout the month of May, Arpita Mehta is offering various pieces at a 20% percent discount and donating 100% of its proceeds to different Covid-19 relief charities and organizations.
Khara Kapas

The handcrafted brand is donating 100% of profits from its specially curated collection to Hemkunt Foundation’s Oxygen Relief Program. All pieces are available at a flat 15% discount.
Megha Bansal

The luxury clothing label has created a dedicated Covid-19 relief section on their website and will be 100% of its sales to four foundations.
Misho

The modern, handcrafted jewelry label is donating 100% of the proceeds from its Mina Snug cuffs to various relief charities throughout May.
Read Next: 5 Ways to Help India Amid its Ongoing Covid-19 Crisis

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