A few decennia back I worked in India as a tour operator and two years back we decide to visit India again. I am looking forward to seeing Jaipur again, now as a jeweler. This pink city has something special. Not only the Palace of the Winds but also half of the world’s colored gemstones are processed here.
Besides from touristic reasons I want to buy some gemstone beads, for my new collection. Therefore I make an appointment with three gemstone dealers. But none of them showed up. Probably because my business is not important enough, but still I am really disappointed.
The pink city Jaipur
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, a state in the North West of India. It is founded in 1727 by Jai Singh II, a Moghul Maharadja (soldier king). The Moghuls love beautiful things, like palaces, clothing and… jewelry.
In 1876 Queen Victoria and her husband visite Jaipur and because of that occasion, the buildings in the whole city are painted pink, the traditional color of hospitality. And till today the old center is pink!
How Jaipur becomes one large gemstone market?
India has a rich tradition in using colors, wearing colored clothes and jewelry. The Moghuls have thrones loaded with diamonds, pearls, rubies, and emeralds. And Jai Singh II orders a lot of colored gemstones to make jewelry for him and his wives and family. And where there is a market there are people who jump into that market.
The Johari Bazaar is created by Jai Singh II and is now the center of the colored gemstone industry: from rough to polished stones, the wholesale market and designing and producing the jewelry.
The biggest emerald market in the world
The rough gemstones are not mined in India but imported from all over the world. In the time of Jai Singh II Jaipur is situated along the Silk Route (the main trades road from China to Europe). So very convenient for buying the rough stones from Asia en selling them to Europe.
In the Johari Bazaar work a lot of people, polishing rough gemstones into polished ones, designing and making jewelry using the gemstones and the sellers of all the products. Extraordinary is that you’ll find around Jaipur a lot of people in the cottages who work for the Johari Bazaar. It’s really a large industry, where about 500.000 work in.
The largest amount of colored gemstones that are imported are the emeralds, in different sizes and qualities. When the deliverance of emerald from abroad declines the companies focus on lower quantities, but higher quality emerald. The investment for the higher quality emerald is high, so the companies work with smaller amounts, that increases the price (less supply, same size market). Besides that it takes more time, more expertise to cut a high-quality emerald.
From emerald to tanzanite and television
In the 1990s when the emerald trade declines the Jaipur tradespeople change their focus to other colored gemstones, like tanzanite. But the Tanzania government does not allow to export rough tanzanite gemstone above 1 carat. The Jaipur cutting industry has to work with the smaller sized tanzanite stones.
In the USA the jewelry television got popular. And for that business, you need smaller colored gemstones, that are faceted (because that looks so fancy on television).
Also in China, the demand for colored gemstones grows and grows. The Chinese want smaller faceted colored gemstones to make jewelry from and export the jewelry for a low price to the USA. The Chinese tradespeople don’t sell to Japan and Europe, because there they have more stringent quality requirements. But China has its own shopping television now and China has a lot of inhabitants, so Jaipur will be in business for a long time.
Tradition and modern times
The good thing is that the gemstone industry in Jaipur and the surrounding cottages are ‘in good business’. There is a diversification, working with higher quality gemstones, with smaller sizes gemstones and a new cutting process is introduced: faceting.
But the cottage industry keeps working with old systems, with traditional designs and that makes this jewelry special.
In my next blog post, I will show you a special type of Indian jewelry: Kundan jewelry. Amazing and exceptionally beautiful.
Hug, Florence from FlorenceJewelshop.
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