Jewellery holds a special place in my heart. Not so much because of the value of the jewels themselves, but for the memories associated with each piece. When I was younger my mother used to carry me around like a handbag. Everywhere she went, I would go to: Paris, Beirut, Rome. She never shielded me from experiences just because I was a child, instead she took me with her, exposing me to the finer things in life. Today, as I wear her taviz (amulet) and her wedding band on a chain around my neck I’m often reminded of some of these experiences.
I have so many memories of my mother and I walking down Park Lane to what was then known as the Hilton Jewellers – my small hand enclosed within her gloved one, as we peered into the windows of the jewellery shop, and then finally went inside. Jewellery shopping then was an altogether different affair. Whilst the white gloves and velvet trays remained, there was a casualness to it, which, I suppose, came from familiarity. I remember a lady behind the counter, elegant, refined, always greeting us with a smile, and directing us to sit down as she brought out trays upon trays of diamonds, natural pearls and jewels. What I didn’t realise then, was that I was in the presence of jewellery greatness: Alisa Moussaieff, the wife of Shlomo Moussaieff, the founders of Moussaieff Jewellers, who is universally recognised as the matriarch of the global jewellery industry.
Heeramaneck and Sons
Our favourite stop in Bombay would always be Heeramaneck and Sons, a jewellery institution that was founded in the 1800s. They didn’t always have the store that you see today, rather it was a small cramped, almost hole-in-the-wall, teeming with silver, objects d’art and of course, jewellery. Today the House sits on Colaba’s Battery Street and is run by Mehernosh and his business partner Nilesh Ghatlia. But my strongest memories are of his father, Ardeshir M Heeramaneck. He was always such a gentleman, such a fine human being: The way he addressed everyone, from my mother, a client, to the chaiwallah. He would spend hours talking about jewellery to us, the natural diamonds, the settings, their upcoming designs. His passion was infectious.
Hong Kong Jewellery Fair
My mother was a connoisseur of jewellery. She had the most incredible knack for discovering that diamond in the rough. In 2000, we visited the Hong Kong Jewellery Fair and instead of heading for the counters of the jewellery Houses, she went straight to the vintage section. I remember her taking her time as she looked through the seemingly endless collection of pieces, some broken, some damaged, delicately inspecting and playing with each, until she found the right one. In this instance it was the casing of a brooch – empty, not a stone in sight. To most it would look like nothing, but to my mother it had potential. She bought it and brought it back to India, where, with the help of a local jeweller she sourced the appropriate natural diamonds and gemstones to transform the shell into a wearable work of art. To this day, whenever I wear the piece, I’m reminded of her.
Today, these memories form a base for how I approach jewellery. Every piece my husband has given me is related to a memory, a moment in time, and that’s what makes it all the more precious.