Lessons from my grandmother’s closet I learned early on that beautiful things should not be locked in cupboards. When I was a child, my grandmother, Shanta Rameshwar Rao, would give me free rein of her jewellery cupboard. I would pull out different pieces and wear them as I pleased. She was an educationist, and her very relaxed attitude towards jewellery and her sarees gave me the freedom to be playful. And so, while I began to appreciate the beauty of exquisite craftsmanship at a young age, I also developed a sense of enjoyment when it comes to fine jewellery. That holds true even today.
All in the details I got my love of jewellery from my grandfather, Raja Rameshwar Rao, who was the Raja of Wanaparthy. He had exquisite taste and knowledge, who really valued the artistry of pieces, so that’s something that has always stayed with me. What I get drawn to first is craftsmanship, the proportions of a piece—how a diamond is set, rather than how big it is. It’s always about that fine balance and aesthetics.
I remember, when I was 12 years old, I went to our family jeweller and chose some pieces, saying I wanted to buy them. He indulged me but, of course, called my grandfather and said that I had selected the simplest of the lot, but the most expensive! I want to be able to see the workmanship that goes into a piece, the way, say, a clasp is constructed. Those details make all the difference. This is also why I’m drawn to the jewellery style of Hyderabad; the way they use stones and their setting techniques that are sophisticated, understated and so beautiful.
The Freedom in jewellery When it comes to everyday jewellery, I love layering and stacking necklaces, because I can do what I want with the pieces. It brings a whimsical quality to my dressing. I’d happily do the same with fine jewellery, mix and match, layer and be playful with it. I enjoy wearing jewellery creatively. It’s exciting to me when I can mix it up. This is also why I like gender-fluid jewellery. I see so many people, men and women, wearing bracelets and earrings in their own unique ways.
Diamonds are forever For me, diamond solitaires are timeless. They look so beautiful. I am very particular about the colour and clarity—I’d like it to be perfect! Even when I wanted a diamond stud for my nose piercing, I was very particular about the quality of the stone. I am that person who looks for no inclusions, for internally flawless natural diamonds, and for the D colour certification! It’s not about whether or not something is visible to the naked eye, or someone less. I will always know.
India: A love story I am very rooted; I love Indian jewellery. One of my favourite accessories is a full mathapatti.
I was always told that the jewellery one wears on the head signifies the universe, the sun, and the moon. I also love anklets. I always ask if I can wear one when I’m shooting a film. I recently also bought a traditional Polki (uncut natural diamond) Chand Bali (earrings)—I have loved chand balis since I was a child and never owned one until now. The name itself is so romantic. There is so much poetry that’s been written on the moon! It’s as if you’re wearing a poem on your face. Besides, the crescent is one of the most beautiful shapes.
The endurance of heirlooms I’ve been fortunate to grow up surrounded by some of the most beautiful pieces of jewellery. And over the years, I’ve worn them for various occasions.
There’s a lovely necklace my grandfather gave me when I turned 13 — I would wear it with a sari from my mother’s wardrobe to attend dance concerts, but today I can even pair it with a white shirt. Similarly there’s a beautiful old choker that has been passed down many generations, with diamonds and Basra pearls. It’s a traditional setting but it’s so beautiful and versatile. I could wear it with a polo neck, and it would look lovely. Heirlooms are timeless. They are made up of memories. What is beautiful to me will be beautiful eternally.