The Diamond Disruptor: Sabyasachi Mukherjee

The designer’s work with natural diamonds is an extension of his eclectic, bohemian vision.

By |
The designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee and a piece from his latest collection, ‘The Tropic of Calcutta’. Profile Photo Courtesy: Tarun Vishwa for Sabyasachi, Sabyasachi Calcutta

Sabyasachi Mukherjee might have started his eponymous fine jewellery label in 2017, almost 20 years since he founded his now-iconic label, but its origins lie at the very core of the couturier’s first forays into design. His jewellery has developed as a natural expansion of his world – once inhabited by flamboyant muses like Frida Kahlo, Madonna, and Rabindranath Tagore’s character Monimalika; where men wear their natural diamond jewellery with ease; and where a sense of style can cross boundaries between cities as diverse as Mumbai and New York.

Sabyasachi Jewellery collection
Capturing the vintage charm, a rare old-mine cut Golconda Diamond necklace set in platinum. Image: Instagram @sabyasachijewelry

Kolkata Connection
Mukherjee has spoken about how even before he was dressing the rich and famous, he first tried his hand at jewellery design. “When I was barely 20, I made my first jewellery collection. It was an eclectic collection made with stone, bone, feathers and hand-painted wood. I sold them from plastic tiffin boxes to street vendors and they all sold out. I do wish I had kept a piece from that collection!”

His early inspirations include the pieces that his grandfather, an avid collector, would buy for his mother.

Particularly on his visits to Hamilton & Co, a now-shuttered legendary store that was often compared to Cartier. After he launched his own fashion label in 1999, he collaborated with brands like Tanishq and Forevermark, made the jewels for films like Guzaarish and carefully dressed his A-list clientele in the finest curated pieces.

Natural Diamond Choker from Sabyasachi jewellery
A stunning natural diamond choker is offset by dainty diamond ear studs in floral shapes. Instagram: @sabyasachijewelry
Sabyasachi jewellery
Pearls, diamonds and coloured gemstones in this rose-tinted vision from 2020. Image: Instagram @sabyasachijewelry

Disruptive Diamonds
When he launched his own line in 2017, it was clear that the designer’s approach to jewellery was to be a continuation of his work with Indian craft techniques and a celebration of ornamentation.

“My inspiration to launch Sabyasachi Jewellery was to bring storytelling and fine Indian craftsmanship back into design,”

he says.

“To make our jewellery truly luxurious again and to create modern heirlooms that are wearable, authentic, timeless and most of all, beautiful. India and our Indian heritage remain my biggest inspiration.” His most recent jewellery collection, the Tropic of Calcutta is an example of this contemporary take on heritage. It features a natural diamond-studded choker anchored by a walnut-sized opal, opulent bibs with tiger’s heads and coloured gemstones, ropes of brilliant-cut diamonds mixed with pyrite, sapphires, rubies, coral, and spinels and even a pair of palm tree-shaped earrings with coral and emeralds, pearls and real diamonds. He’s even known to pair precious gemstones with unexpected materials like wood, shell and unpolished coral. “I wanted to bring energy back into diamond jewellery,” he said in an interview with Vogue India. “You get these beautiful large pieces that are eclectic and modern, that won’t necessarily burn a hole in your pocket… I call it disruptive diamond jewellery.”

Tropic of Calcutta by Sabyasachi
From the most recent Tropic of Calcutta collection, this necklace features brilliant-cut diamonds,
yellow and pink sapphires, tourmaline, ruby, pearl, black spinel and opal in 18k gold.
Image: Instagram @sabyasachijewelry

For Mukherjee, this mix of high and low results in pieces that can be worn multiple times over and styled in a variety of ways.

The key to this versatility is to choose natural diamonds of exceptional quality and opt for classic cuts such as the rose cut, cushion cut, or princess cut. Shapes that work in multiple forms and can be easily adapted for different settings. He said, “When I look at natural diamonds, apart from the fact that they’re precious, sparkling and beautiful, I’m almost instinctively drawn to them because they’re so dependable. They’re some of the oldest stones in the world, un-perishable and truly timeless, and can be passed on from one generation to the next.” A truly sustainable luxury.

Sabyasachi jewellery collection
Left: A rare bracelet made with Colombian emerald, brilliant-cut and mutual-cut diamonds.
Right: Dramatic diamond drop earrings from the designer’s 2019 collection.
Images: Instagram @sabyasachijewelry

Diamonds For Everyone
Mukherjee is never too far from his core mission – to sustain craft at its highest level. And that often means creating pieces that appeal to a wider audience and allow for a new generation of customers to appreciate and treasure the unique skills of an Indian karigar. In that spirit, he’s created two highly-successful collections of fine jewellery exclusively for the legendary department store, Bergdorf Goodman, New York. And earlier this year the brand launched the Royal Bengal Mangalsutra—made with brilliant and rose-cut natural diamonds, Zambian diamonds and rubies on a base of 18K gold, this symbol of love is priced at a relatively competitive ₹195,000. In addition, his future plans include a line of affordable jewellery, a continuation of the democratic spirit that inspired his most recent fashion look-book with high street fashion giant H&M.

Men's brooch from Sabyasachi Jewellery collection
An opulent men’s brooch is worn on a turban and paired with multiple strands of diamond necklaces. Image: Instagram @sabyasachijewelry

Mukherjee describes his jewellery as, “A melting pot of travel, history, romance and madness. No rules. Just joyful surprises”. And it’s these surprises that we continue to be inspired by.