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May 29, 2014

Inside an Indian Family Jewelry Empire

By Shivani Vora | Jewelry

Inside an Indian Family Jewelry Empire
Courtesy of MUNNU The Gem Palace

As the creator of intricate, handmade jewelry popular among royalty, Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities and chic civilians, Munnu Kasliwal was India’s most prominent jeweler when he died of brain cancer in 2012. Today, his Munnu The Gem Palace brand (headquartered in Jaipur, India) lives on through his 29-year-old son, Siddharth, who began working full-time with his dad more than a decade ago. The younger Kasliwal now designs the pieces sold at Barneys New York boutiques nationwide, a by-appointment atelier on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and other high-end retailers globally. (Peacock earrings in amethyst and tourmaline are pictured here.)

While 35 of his father’s works are currently on display at the Moscow Kremlin Museum in an exhibition called “India: Jewels that Enchanted the World” (through July 27; kreml.ru), Siddharth is working on his first collection, set on establishing his own reputation as a master. Here, we catch up with him.

Q: How does your aesthetic differ from your father’s?
A:
I worked with him for so long that the style, quality and craftsmanship is identical. The jewelry looks distinctly Indian but not ethnic. It’s modern. But I am younger, so I would say my work is more playful and colorful in terms of the stones I use. I love spinels, for example. My dad did, too, but I might use more of them in a necklace or bracelet.

Q: What characterizes your creative process?
A:
When something inspired my father, he would sketch. He did literally dozens of sketches in a day, even drawing from his hospital bed in Manhattan. I don’t really draw. When I am taken with something I take a picture on my iPhone, which I show to one of our craftsmen in India. We come up with a design together.

Q: Your own full collection debuts in a few months, but your dad passed away almost two years ago. Why did you wait so long?
A:
It’s actually taken that much time to get my head around the empire. We have 600 workers around the world. Also, when he died there were a few hundred pieces that had to be completed and a few hundred more that we are still creating based on the sketches he left behind.

Q: Can you give us a hint of what your collection will be like?
A:
All I can tell you right now is that it will be seven pieces, which are inspired by one of my dad’s masterpieces that is currently on display at the Kremlin.

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