Over the years, the diamond industry has witnessed a surge of fresh talent shaking up the world of design and trailblazing a unique approach to fine jewellery. Fitting perfectly into this new generation of bold creators who have been liberally mixing traditional influences with modern concepts, is Rashmee Pai Seth with her label, Kanackam. Born as the Mumbai-based designer’s “self-indulgent side project” in 2013, the jewellery brand has now grown in both vision and size and identifies as eccentric and timeless, unique yet classic—an eloquent statement of all that’s on Rashmee’s mind. “I was my very first client and I realised, very quickly, that I am a very difficult customer. I like to take control of the process, be in charge, and above all, I love working with my hands,” she remarks.
The growth of Kanackam has been an organic one, as a jewellery brand that’s homespun, personalised and honest to its roots
She traces her design trademark to her affinity for antique jewellery which she re-invents to create an endearing, one-of-a-kind rendition of her own. The path to this, however, was arduous, with many a day spent holed up with skilled karigars in the by lanes of Zaveri Bazar, where she learnt to shape metals and cut natural diamonds, to mould them into her fantastical pieces. “It was when I first picked up a hammer to beat a ‘lagdi’ of gold into my first stack of bangles that I knew I was going to keep doing this,” Rashmee fondly recalls. Since then, she has been hand-making jewellery, often re-creating whimsical pieces out of old jewellery, giving them a new lease of life.
“Kanackam means golden in Tamil and finds its roots in the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, seeing the beauty in imperfect natural diamonds. Just like the sparkle of a natural diamond depends on its flaws, my pieces have a raw edge to them that makes them distinct.”
The inspiration in her pieces is drawn from her memories of being a teenager who loved to stand out with her statement-making junk jewellery. “My work has to appeal to me in an emotional way, which is why I love working with natural diamonds, especially coloured ones that are both earthy and fun,” she adds. One of her favourite pieces being a raw diamond and melted gold ring that was born out of an experimental Sunday spent alone at her studio.
Rashmee’s tryst with natural diamonds began when her mother gifted her a pair of solitaires when she turned 25. “I know how confident I felt when I walked into a room wearing them. There’s just something about diamond jewellery that is so empowering—knowing that you are loved and looked after,” she reflects. Since she is a mother to a 10-year-old boy, who she calls her “best creation so far”, Rashmee hopes to pass on the solitaires to her niece when she turns 25.
Her delicate pieces of jewellery are a balancing act between playful and sophisticated, aimed at making the wearer feel comfortable in their skin. “One of my favourites is when this client sent me a bag of 20-30 assorted pieces of old jewellery and asked me to “make something that depicts her. That was the brief, just that.” she laughs. “It turned out to be a thrilling six-week process of conceptualising and executing a perfectly symmetrical gold and diamond cuff bracelet with diamonds of different sizes!” she adds. This statement cuff also found its way into the NDC India’s first ever jewellery trend report 2021, for its bold aesthetic that cleverly taps into the alluring power of natural diamonds.
While Kanackam continues to push the envelope of design, Rashmee believes she is still figuring out the long road ahead. The label does not mass produce jewellery, so every piece has its own story to tell. It captures the wearer’s spirit through Rashmee’s unique artistic language. “A lot of my work is instinctual and the hand-made detailing helps bring out my voice in the piece. I want to keep telling enchanting stories of people through the arresting colours and fluid designs of the jewellery they own,” she smiles, as she gets back to her workstation to do what she loves.