Arundhati De-Sheth’s path into the world of fine jewellery was an unconventional one. Born into a family with no prior connection to the jewellery or business sphere—she playfully reflects on organically finding herself at the helm of a fine jewellery enterprise, traditionally a family-run industry in India. In 2018, she launched her jewellery advisory and has grown to become one of India’s foremost experts in the space.
Today, De-Sheth hosts an annual jewellery show in India alongside working with prolific clients to curate their individual collections. Her appreciation for fine jewellery and ability to scope out undiscovered gems comes from growing up in a household of art enthusiasts. “A very strong memory that I have from when I was a young girl (around five or seven years of age), is seeing legendary artists like MF Hussain and Shakti Burman having chai and biscuits at home.”
Driven by the sentimentality of natural diamond jewellery, De-Sheth talks about her inspirations and shares tips on how to build your jewellery collection.
Describe your everyday diamond jewellery style?
I love the elegance of a lost era. I want people to wear jewellery with a certain irreverence. We don’t have to wait for marriage [or an occasion] to wear our jewellery. Diamonds should be worn with a certain personal intent—I want people to weave it into their everyday style and create a look that’s just their own. This drives me.
As I see people wearing joggers more and dressing up less, I’m motivated to stick to a certain old school elegance that I feel is getting lost. And I really want to hold on to that—it’s a source of inspiration. There are certain people who feel the same way and I want to grow that tribe.
Heritage has an important role to play, especially in the world of jewellery. How do you draw from it?
India has a very strong heritage and I love its contradictions, especially in a city like Bombay. There’s so much diversity and because I’m quite an emotional and sensitive person, it reflects in everything I curate. Whether it’s an aesthetic from tribal jewellery that’s decades old, or certain centuries old techniques that we continue to use in modern jewellery making, I think our heritage is deeply significant—you don’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve come from. What I hope to curate through my work is pieces inspired by India’s rich legacy with natural diamonds, gold and gems, but that have a design language which speaks to a more global Indian.
What is your earliest memory of natural diamond jewellery?
[As a child], I was always touching my mama’s jewellery and taking things I was not supposed to. Sometimes I would get into trouble because I would be doing nothing and a piece would just fall apart or the stringing would open or I’d lose a stone. I remember on the eve of my 10th grade exams I woke up early to study and a diamond was missing from my earring. I spent the next two hours worried about my exam and the lost diamond! Even though my early memories with jewellery involved getting into trouble, I was attracted to it like a moth to a flame. Luckily, mama wasn’t strict about locking her jewels up. There are vivid memories of jewellery vendors coming home and opening out [diamond] jewellery on carpets. I would sit and watch and I would get to touch and feel. There’s certain faces I remember, birthdays and many of life’s smaller and sweeter moments that are attached to a certain jewel.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’d like to think that I’m an unfussy, spontaneous dresser. This turned out to be quite the problem when I was getting married because I did not try on my clothes before the actual day, and there were many issues that cropped up. Day to day, I dress based on my mood. [One thing that stays constant] is that I wear something old with something quite new. The diamond continues to fascinate and I tend to have a diamond on me in some form or the other every single day. One piece I’m always wearing is my natural diamond eternity band which I got at the time of my marriage.
Your jewellery curation always features incredible new talent. Tell us about that journey of discovery.
I make a lot of discoveries through travel—there’s a humongous curiosity for things. Even Instagram is a great platform to unearth new talent. So if I see something that’s caught my attention, I will reach out to said jeweller and go from there. I don’t work with photos only, at least initially. I always make a trip to meet, touch and feel, explore the quality and workmanship of the jewels. And it’s quite simply this—if it’s a piece that I immediately wish I had, then I know it’s something that I’d be confident in sharing with clients. It’s very instinctive, organic, and I do keep myself abreast all the time. I love attending jewellery forums and seminars. Travelling to Jaipur is a constant source of inspiration because the city itself is like a treasure trove!
You once said: ‘Putting together a jewellery collection is like putting together an art collection.’ Jewellery and art have a beautiful sentimentality attached to them. What are the similarities you see between your two passions?
I grew up in a house that had a lot of artists, painters, and sculptors coming in and out. A very strong memory that I have from when I was a young girl (around five or seven years of age), is seeing legendary artists like MF Hussain and Shakti Burman having chai and biscuits at home. And whilst they’d be talking, they’d pick up scraps of paper, doodle and draw using whatever they could find, sometimes even my crayons. I didn’t know what was going on until I was much older but I always thought my parents were rather unusual. They were not like my other friends’ parents. In the past few years, I’ve grown to appreciate that sense of art I’ve inherited from them.
For me, jewellery is a form of wearable art—I’ve never viewed it as a financial commodity. Whether it’s paintings, sculpture, tapestries or jewellery, each one is handcrafted by a series of individuals who are gifted and talented [beyond measure]. Creating jewellery is especially laborious, given how tiny it is. I really hope that people appreciate it like that.
Tell us about this beautiful diamond necklace you’re sporting for NDC.
This necklace was pre-owned and comes with such a story. My mum brought it home when I was about 15 years old and my reaction was ‘oh my gosh, this is just such a strange, funny piece!’ At the time I thought it’s so odd and old-fashioned but now, 30-something year old me is wearing it and enjoying it so much. It’s a piece that’s very distinctly vintage—set in silver with old cut diamonds and it possibly must have belonged to maybe an old Parsi family, or atleast that’s the story I told myself. Now, I wear it very casually even though it’s rather large.
Are there any precious heirlooms you are saving for your kids?
I launched my eponymous fine jewellery consultancy in 2018 as a product of motherhood. Having children opened a new door for me else I would’ve continued to work in an office for someone else. When I realised that I’d like to be home to watch my children grow, I decided that I would not give up working, but simply change the way I work and that prompted me to start something of my own.
My kids are really little but they’ve been exposed to what I do from the time they were born. As I’ve worked mostly out of home, they get to see a lot of jewellery and so far, they’re very interested. I’d love to save almost everything I have for them but there’s a difference when I’m acquiring pieces for myself because I’m not thinking of them strictly as heirlooms. I think an heirloom is a piece that’s had a wonderful story in history with the original owner and that has become so distinctive to said person, that it becomes a precious piece. So I feel my kids will feel strongly towards pieces that they’ve seen me wearing constantly, and they’ll think, oh, when I see that necklace, I think of my mum. Or that mama always used to wear those earrings. When they come of age, they will feel strongly towards those pieces only because I feel strongly for them now.
What is the advice that you would give to someone looking to build their jewellery collection?
Never compromise on quality and know what you’re comfortable spending. In India, we’re very lucky because there’s jewellery that caters to every single segment. Look around, take your time and buy pieces that you really instinctively love. Jewellery is an indulgence, and it is ultimately a piece of metal or diamonds or gemstones that you’re putting on yourself to feel a certain way. Try the piece on and assess if it makes you feel good. Do the work and buy pieces that really make you feel happy and special.
Natural diamond jewellery means memories—it is just such a beautiful marker of life’s small and big moments. And for me, every piece of jewellery that I’ve either owned or inherited, serves as a very beautiful reminder of a special moment in time which is forever frozen in that diamond.