KNOW YOUR JEWELLERY…
Estate Jewellery Only For Savvy Collectors
C. Krishniah Chetty & Sons (CKC) is a 140-year-old jewellery house in Bangalore that has adorned women over the many years of its existence. CKC prides itself on being the custodian of ancient arts and is India’s only jeweller to deal in estate jewellery. Our guest writer, C. VINOD HAYA GRIV, managing director of CKC, started the ‘ Own History, Acquire Eternity’ programme in his showroom way back in 1995 so that a discerning buyer could own an heirloom piece that also offered a sliver of history. Reviving an interest in traditional jewellery crafts and at the same time embracing new trends have made CKC a popular haven to hunt for precious treasures. Hayagriv explains more about the concept.
A Cherished Medal – This medal assumes importance as it was handed over by an English gentleman whose grandfather was awarded The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire by the Queen of England. Wishing that this important medal remain in India, the gentleman approached C. Krishniah Chetty & Sons in 1999, who readily purchased the same at an undisclosed price. The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1878. The Order was founded by the British to reward British and "native" officials who served in India. The motto of the Order is Imperatricis auspiciis, Latin for "Under the auspices of the Empress", a reference to Queen Victoria, the first Empress of India. Appointments to the Order ceased after 14 August 1947, the year of the Partition of India. However, the Order has never been formally abolished, and Queen Elizabeth II remains the Sovereign of the Orders to this day.
I do wish that the government will wake up to this alarming loss of culture, talent, and art that was nurtured by royalty and connoisseurs in India over 300 years ago.
Could you explain what exactly estate jewellery is?
Estate jewellery is a term used to refer to pre-owned jewellery that belonged to wealthy family estates. Generally, the parameters that define estate jewellery are many: it should be a piece of art; a piece that is not reproducible; a piece that has historical value attached to it, for instance, it could have been owned by a noted member of society of the time; a piece that is composed of gems that are hard to find in today's context; or a piece of jewellery that is produced with unique craftsmanship. Such attributes make these jewels collectibles.
However, it is important that these jewels are well-maintained and are in fairly good condition. Then, too, there are some exceptions such as, if it belonged to a prominent person in which case even a remnant of a piece becomes a collectible!
How does CKC procure estate jewellery from consumers, establish the provenance of the piece, get its ownership validated and so on? Does it also certify the jewels?
The process runs deep. It is a sustained network of contacts directly with the consumers, owners, clients, families, and agents that gives us leads. Each piece is examined by knowledgeable people who know the history of the craft over generations, the skills and techniques that went into manufacturing it, the geographical origins, or the possibility of it being made in a particular region and so on.
Then the testing for metals and gemstones is conducted. If found worthy, the piece gets validated and authenticated by me and is included in the CKC’s ‘Own History, Acquire Eternity’* programme that we started 18 years ago. Where necessary, I also consult members under the Heritage Forum that was established in the same year.
Are there enough buyers for estate jewellery?
While buyers and sellers are both limited, in comparison there are fewer buyers than sellers. However, the appetite of those few buyers is far greater than what the sellers can provide. As the buyers become more mature, they appreciate the old, timeless treasures. New consumers of jewellery aren’t necessarily the consumers of estate jewellery. Only the ones who have an eye for heritage and history love to own such pieces. Some collectors wear them. Some display them.
What is the importance of these heirloom pieces in terms of preserving the traditional arts and crafts of India?
Sadly, we have lost a huge number of arts and crafts in the country due to callous handling by successive government policies. Policy makers do not realise that nurturing talent is a painstaking process and it needs to be encouraged. Unfortunately, the little that exists by way of heirlooms are either smuggled out of the country and lost forever or discarded for lack of understanding their worth. The West probably has more Indian heirlooms than India, and that’s a pity.
I do wish that the government will wake up to this alarming loss of culture, talent, and art that was nurtured by royalty and connoisseurs in India over 300 years ago. Now, it is as good as lost forever – a colossal loss for the next three or four generations, who will not get to see these pieces of art. I believe that fine jewellery made by hand today will now be considered ‘collectibles’ by this generation.
Dressy Comb A 22-karat gold comb highlighted with repousse work of Goddess Parvati with yalis (mythical creatures) on either side. This piece is non-saleable.
Ornate artefac t The rosewater sprinkler is crafted in 22-karat gold and embellished with decorative foliate motifs in repousse work. This piece is not for sale.
Timelessness in time – A pocketwatch, embedded with bezel-set diamonds, created by Rolex for C. Krishniah Chetty & Sons, circa 1935. This piece is non-saleable.