We treasure a family heirloom not just for its beauty or rarity, but for the stories it holds. Embedded within it are memories, emotions, and a legacy of style that’s passed down from one generation to the next. Over two days in Mumbai, two fashion stylists, Archana Walavalkar and Chandni Sareen gave us a glimpse of the jewels that they’ve inherited and shared what makes them so precious. While each has their own distinct aesthetic, the two are linked by a mutual appreciation for storytelling through natural diamonds.
Immersed as she is in the world of film, celebrity, and fashion, Archana has a discerning eye for style and appreciates the value of jewellery that transcends seasons or trends. For her, “even the cut or the weight of a piece of jewellery speaks of the time in which it was made.” Her favourite heirloom is an elegant set of four natural diamond bangles set in platinum which was passed down to her from her grandmother. The bangles were made in the 1960s and they tell the story of their love, the family they went on to nurture and now, the hopes that Archana has for her own future.
“Even the cut or the weight of a piece of jewellery speaks of the time in which it was made.”
How would you describe your personal style?
Archana Walavalkar: I would say that it’s laidback and minimal with a focus on comfort. I’m very fond of jewellery and I like to layer different aesthetics.
Tell us the story behind these bangles set with natural diamonds.
AW: The bangles were a birthday gift from my grandfather to his wife. He bought them from Belgium when he was travelling for work and they were initially too large and had to be cut and resized. As a result, they have a few grooves on them which I actually think makes them even more special. I remember my aaji wearing these bangles for special occasions or weddings. She used to mix and match them with other pieces and I wear them the same way now.
What are some of your fondest memories of your grandmother?
AW: I used to share a room with her growing up and she would have a bedtime story for me every night. She was very particular, always meticulously dressed, and had an exquisite collection of Kashmiri shawls and many beautiful antique purses which I still love to wear.
Can you remember a special moment featuring these bangles?
AW: Yes, when I wore them to my wedding reception. I chose a Tarun Tahiliani lehenga, the bangles, and more art deco jewellery with diamonds and emeralds. That was a really emotional moment for me.
What makes heirloom jewels so precious?
AW: I don’t buy a lot of jewellery, most of what I have is through my family. Pieces that are passed down or have sentimental value have so much more character to them. Even if I do buy something it has to have real craftsmanship behind it, be of a certain quality, and I need to know where it comes from.
“Pieces that are passed down or have sentimental value have so much more character to them.”
What do these bangles mean to your family?
AW: They are definitely special not just to me, but to everyone else in my family as well. For example my aunts are always telling me that I have the most coveted piece of family jewellery and that I should really treasure them. That’s also why I would love to pass them when I have children.
A few years ago, Mumbai-based stylist and designer Chandni Sareen had an epiphany. “I made a complete switch to more sustainable fashion,” she says. “I was just seeing so much waste around me that I decided it was time to change things.” The result is a personal jewellery collection built on a foundation of memorable pieces that can be worn over and over again. Her most precious jewels are three rings that were passed down to her from her mother. Two of them she wears every day: One, a slim gold band set entirely with diamonds and the second is a white gold ring with three round-cut stones. The third is a statement piece, a rectangular strip set with emeralds and diamonds that’s just for special occasions and which used to be her great grandmothers.
Has jewellery always been a part of your life?
Chandni Sareen: Growing up I remember travelling to Bareilly to meet my nani and always visiting the same jewellery shop. That was her routine; we would go to the salon where she would get her blow dry or manicure, then go shopping, and end the day at the jeweller. That’s probably what made me such a jewellery and accessory collector. I’ve always had an obsession with rings in particular.
How do you style your jewellery?
CS: I’m drawn toward pieces that are unique; they might be antiques, have carvings or other strange motifs on them. And I love to wear everything together. I already wear the two rings that I inherited from my mother every day. They are so dainty and subtle that they go with anything. The older emerald and diamond ring meanwhile really looks like it’s from another time. I usually style it with a pair of kundan earrings when I’m wearing Indianwear.
What do these rings signify to you?
CS: They are almost like snapshots or photos. Looking at them I instantly remember my family. It’s a reminder that even before I got married and added a wedding ring to my collection, that was my first home.
“The rings are almost like snapshots or photos. Looking at them I instantly remember my family.”
In what ways do you try to live more sustainably?
CS: I wear a lot of vintage fashion, often sharing clothes with my mother. I’ve also decluttered my wardrobe and try to only keep the things that I use and need. Even when it comes to my label, The Ikat Story, I upcycle a lot. After all, old things, clothes and diamond jewellery can always be made new and they are so much more versatile.
What makes vintage natural diamond jewellery so special?
CS: It’s not so much about the money as it is the sentimental value, the memories that they hold. It’s like wearing vintage fashion, I like jewellery that comes with a story and the fact that you probably won’t be able to find the same piece now.
“It’s like wearing vintage fashion, I like jewellery that comes with a story and the fact that you probably won’t be able to find the same piece now.”
So while fashion trends might come and go and their own lives might change, for both these stylists one thing is clear: That their natural diamond jewellery holds the stories of who they are, where they come from, and the people that shaped them.