India may be home to many family-run legacy jewellery houses, but few can boast the kind of lineage Ganjam does. The family’s connection with precious gems, natural diamonds in particular, can be traced back to the Vijaynagar empire. “India has always been the land of diamonds and its trade, and the Ganjam family have been known as diamond and gem merchants for many generations. Even before our registered establishment in 1889,” reveals seventh-generation jeweller H. Dushyant Ganjam, who currently helms his family’s business.
Originally traders — largely musk, Burmese rubies and eventually mined Golconda diamonds — for the royal family, their journey begins in the town of Ganjam in present-day Odisha, from where they followed the king’s footsteps to Hampi and then Srirangapatna, south of Mysore. Eventually their expertise extended to handcrafting jewels for the royal family, culminating in the inception of the brand’s headquarters and workshop (which they still operate from today) in present-day Bengaluru in 1889, so that private clients beyond royalty could access their inimitable craftsmanship too. In 1942, they were even officially certified as jewellers to the royal family. “Ganjam Nagappa’s son Subbramiah was one of the early Indian diamond jewellery designers to adopt full-cut and brilliant-cut diamonds with 58 facets when they were first invented in Europe in the early part of last century,” adds Ganjam.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
While Ganjam is a brand with a strong heritage and deep roots going back centuries, they are also constantly evolving.
We like to think of our diamond designs as contemporary classics — modern (but not trend-driven) for the period they are made in, but meant to evolve into classics over time, always relevant for our patrons’ changing lifestyles,” explains Shreedevi Deshpande Puri, “We like to think of our diamond designs as contemporary classics — modern (but not trend-driven) for the period they are made in, but meant to evolve into classics over time, always relevant for our patrons’ changing lifestyles,” explains Shreedevi Deshpande Puri, Ganjam’s creative head.
It’s not just a time-transcending aesthetic that makes Ganjam pieces collectibles. It is also the intent with which they approach each piece, something that they have remained committed to since 1889 — a reverence for Indian heritage, quality and craftsmanship coupled with a drive to create unique designs and memorable retail experiences.
Their long-standing ‘Heritage’ and ‘Legacy’ lines are a manifestation of their traditional point of view, based on the kundala velai style of jewellery native to south India, to honour their ties to Vijayanagar and Hampi. “It’s a close-set style made with old-mine Burmese rubies collected by our chairman, along with rose-cut diamonds and full-cut emeralds as highlights,” adds Puri. The motifs come from the design of age-old temples, studied by a special research cell they have set up for this very purpose.
They are not averse to pushing the boundary to transcend beyond the expected. No matter how forward-thinking the design, the inspiration is often steeped in Indian culture.— the Ikat collection for example, which mimicked the movement of the fabric with its fluid pieces handcrafted from real diamonds and rubies. Rethinking conventional structures comes naturally to them. The all-diamond and hand-cast platinum Iraja necklace commissioned by Platinum Guild International (PGI) for Basel World in 2006 is akin to a sari pallu draped on the wearer’s back, inspired by the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Round natural diamonds and briolette drops were employed to achieve its cascading look. A three-line statement necklace uses princess-cut yellow Canary diamonds to achieve asymmetry. A bridal scarf diamond necklace — which is true to its name in the look — was handmade with princess-cut, round-cut and pear-shaped natural diamonds; and went on to be shot on supermodel Lakshmi Menon by late fashion photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta, with whom Ganjam collaborated on several occasions.
RAISING THE BAR How does one up the ante of that which is already superlative?
Around 1999, Ganjam switched entirely to F-coloured VVS diamonds as their bare minimum quality, a bold and unheard-of move.
“This also included updating even the existing stock, and the transition took about three to four years,” reveals Puri.
The in-store experience is as integral to their universe as the pieces they create. Their vision is captured in their current store, which opened doors in 2015 — for this, the Ganjam family worked with French architectural firm RDAI, headed by Rena Dumas, wife of late Jean-Louis Dumas who was the chairman of Hermès for many years.
The entire design of the store — which was awarded with the ‘best store interiors’ at Prix Versailles 2016, held at the UNESCO headquarters for commercial architecture — is based on Indian philosophy.
The or the five elements, the vastu purusha mandala which is the basis of Indian architecture, Bengaluru’s famous Banyan trees, and the stepwells of Hampi are all incorporated in the layout.
And then there’s their lasting commitment to sparkling real diamonds, sourced from diamond hubs around the world like Antwerp, Hong Kong and Israel. Why is this natural stone a mainstay of their lexicon?
“Natural diamonds exemplify strength, beauty and preciousness”
That aside, it’s their timelessness that make them a no-brainer to work with. “A diamond is eternal. It has a life of its own, that will transcend our lifetimes. It will continue to be a luxury for generations. Their rare, natural quality gives them prominence,” adds Puri. In a way, diamonds mirror the legacy house’s journey through time as well. Both Ganjam and the diamonds they use are the epitome of adaptability and versatility, honing itself into a mould that always raises the bar of jewellery design.