The Bangalore–based Ganjam jewellers are known for their distinctive collections—be it the Ikat Collection that evoked the feel of traditional fabric from Orissa with marquise-cut rubies and diamonds, or the Gerbera Collection that used diamonds and coloured sapphires to create resplendent blooms. The Nizam Collection, their latest offering, is inspired by the jewels of the erstwhile nizams of Hyderabad and has, so far, been launched only in Bangalore.Loungespoke to Aparna Gujral, head of design at Ganjam, about the new collection. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Why a collection inspired by the Hyderabad royalty?
We thought the whole concept of royalty and lost empires would evoke the aesthetic sensibilities of our designers. We also found that people wanted to cherish a period gone by. Eswar Ganjam, chairman and managing director of Ganjam, has personally evaluated the jewels of the nizams.
Jewelled: Earrings with yellow sapphire, green tourmaline, diamond and South Sea pearl, Rs 6.8 lakh.
How were the designers able to access the jewels ?
Till recently the collection was housed at the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad, but it is currently in the custody of the Reserve Bank of India.
I have seen the jewels on display at the National Museum in New Delhi in 2001, during the first ever exhibition, and other members of the design team had a chance to see them at the same museum in 2007. Eswar Ganjam handled the jewels when he evaluated the collection for the government of India in 1978 so we were able to quiz him at length about his impressions of the collection. He was also able to share with us a lot of the technical details of the jewels. Other than that, we worked from photos and books.
Which books best documented the collection?
The books that we referred to the most were Nizams’ Jewellery, published by the National Museum on Janpath, and Jewels of the Nizams by Usha R. Bala Krishnan. Since the collection has never been well documented with regard to provenance, nobody can tell you about the historic significance of each piece, details like who it was presented to and for what occasion are lost forever.
Can you tell us about the design process?
The entire treasury was built on the concept of nazrana, which is the practice of showing loyalty to the ruler and his family through the presentation of valuables. When studying the collection, we felt that a lot of people have missed out on understanding the effortless interplay between the strong flavour of Deccan craftsmanship, with the design sensibilities of the Mughal court. We could see that in every piece of jewellery. There are certain special features—the colour balance between the coloured stones and the diamonds, the shapes and sizes of the pearls used and the overall effects. Yet, it couldn’t just be replicated. It had to be done with current technology, aesthetics and finish that today’s customer is able to identify with. We tried to develop an 18-carat setting—a lot of the earlier pieces were made in silver or 22-carat gold and those settings aren’t possible in 18-carat gold, which is the standard for use with brilliant-cut diamonds.
Choker with brilliant-cut diamond, briolette, tourmaline and rubellite, approx. Rs 22 lakh.
Which stones have been used in the collection?
We have used brilliant cuts, rose cuts and diamond briolettes, besides coloured stones like rubies, Zambian emeralds and cultured pearls, as well as South Sea pearls.
What are the pieces for men in this collection?
Keeping in mind that the nizam’s collection was designed for the seven nizams of Hyderabad, it was important for the male customer at Ganjam to have products set apart in this collection. The collection includes kurta buttons (approx. Rs8.3 lakh onwards) and cufflinks (approx. Rs3 lakh onwards).
Which was your favourite piece from the nizams’ jewels?
Despite the many stunning pieces, it was probably the Sarpech Kalan Zamarrud Wa Kanval Almas Ba Awaiza-i-Zamarrud which had large table-cut emeralds carefully matched for colour, lustre and purity, that left a deep impression.
The Nizam Collection is currently available to order from the Ganjam flagship store, Infantry Road, Bangalore. Pieces start at approx. Rs16,000 for earrings; approx. Rs1.2 lakh for wristwear and approx. Rs9.6 lakh for necklaces.