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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.

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