Jewellery designing is many things to many people — it has been likened to art, poetry in motion, a creative outlet, and a meticulous craft. But for internationally renowned designer Hanut Singh it is, first and foremost, a spiritual experience. Not a comparison you hear every day, but for Singh, this approach is sacrosanct. “Whenever I’m designing, my concentration is on a higher self. A lot of designs just come to me from the ether. I honestly feel like a vessel for them. It’s not that I am striving hard for them to manifest, it just flows. And while we all face blocks sometimes, I am always working on opening up my energetic vibration,” says the designer who views his practise as an inner journey to reach the creative zenith of his own mind.
This explains the importance of talismanic symbols in his work; his cult sword pendant serving as a fitting case in point. “I am obsessed with talismanic things,” he says, referring to his vast personal collections of rock crystals (clear quartz from Brazil is his favourite), miniature Mughal flowers, shells, crosses, and rosary or jaap beads. “My home is filled with them. I incorporate that into my jewellery too.” Anything that speaks to him makes its way into his jewels, like an extension of his own true self. For instance, he reveals he is particularly drawn to eyes — the all-pervading, witnessing eye, as he calls them — which he has been recreating with natural diamonds, rubies, emeralds and mother-of-pearls. His sought-after dagger motif is a symbol of protection, in enamel and rubies. Every piece from the designer’s atelier is seated in a deeper meaning. During the lockdown, he worked on whimsical sailboat necklaces with rubies in an invisible setting, complemented with diamond-studded sails. “Everyone felt so tied down during that time. It was my reminder to journey with the mind’s eye,” he explains.
Design as a way of life
Singh’s international acclaim — that includes the steady patronage of icons like Madonna, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Rihanna, Cher, Nicole Kidman, Diane von Furstenberg, Mary-Kate Olsen and Beyoncé among many others — is often attributed to his cosmopolitan interlacing of versatile references ranging from (but not limited to) Mughal and Rajput craftsmanship, European art and art deco architecture to his culturally-rich upbringing and experiences as a descendant of the Kapurthala royal family. But the reason for his success goes well beyond. It lies in his well-rounded, holistic approach to design… one that informs every crevice of his life — be it the art on his walls, the objects in his sanctuary-like homes, the books on his shelves or the flowers in his garden. “Design for me is 360-degree. It is part of my everyday world, my life. My jewellery is always intermingling with my homes, with my dogs, with the objects I collect. I’m always involved in some aspect of design at all times,” he admits. “It is omnipresent and omnipotent,” he says, much like his everyday fine jewellery that he creates like perennial constants whose appeal is meant to transcend seasons, occasions and decades.
Tapping into the enigma of natural diamonds
While Singh doesn’t believe in limiting himself on account of the stones he works with — everything from precious and semi-precious stones to natural diamonds and rock crystals always happily co-exist in his world — he does admit an affinity for old-mine natural diamonds. He has worked on several commissioned pieces with Golconda diamonds, and his most recent acquisition is a 13-carat old-mine European diamond for a long-time client.
“Diamonds are the most amazing highlighter of all times, you will find them in every piece of mine. Cosmically, their energy is amazing and their lustre is so enhancing. Diamonds are mysterious, magical and unbelievable — they add the steroids to jewellery.”
And he isn’t afraid to play with shapes and cuts, following his instincts to hone in on what a particular design needs — baguettes for strength, rose-cuts for soft romanticism, brilliant-cuts for elevation, or trillion-cuts for architectural geometry. “I also work with a lot of rocks, and often cut them like taviz, hexagonal or portrait-cut natural diamonds from the 17th and 18th century to add liquidity and lightness to the stone. I just made a pear-shaped emerald ring but we rose-cut the emerald,” he says. “I am always thinking of different ways of working…it’s like an octopus with many prongs.”
An extension of himself
So, while the craft of jewellery making may be a learnt skill, the art is an instinctive and inherent one. Singh is proof.
“Every Hanut Singh is a very design-informed piece. But it’s also got all my passion, all my thoughts, all my creative inspiration, all my travels…each piece comes with a lot,”
he says. “I am not -opening up books to say ‘let’s do this’. If I’m doing deco earrings, they are my way. If I’m doing chandeliers, I build my version of it with all my heart and soul. I put so much energy, effort and passion into designing every single thing, and I hope that translates.” Just like his creations cannot be boxed into a single sensibility, nor can the reasons for why aesthetes across the world favour his work. It is the design lover’s unique way of seeing the world, his curiosity, his purity of intent (and energy), his spiritual leanings, his fondness for beauty in all forms, and his attitude of gratitude that all seamlessly come together to create this inimitable charm.