Traditional jewellery scores over technology

Traditional jewellery scores over technology


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oday goldsmiths and jewellers in the City of Joy have not  been  hit by the recession beecause  they decided to  adhere to  traditional practices and ply their trade. They did not opt for mechanisation to produce their wares.

Clearly their decision against shifting to machine-made jewellery stands vindicated now. All along it was believed that the pursuit of traditional practices was attributed to their backwardness —  but today it has paid them rich dividends.

When the United States market was booming, jewellers in other parts of India and the world started mass production of low-carat gold jewellery, which was a craze in the US.

But now with the recession in the US, there are no takers for those items.

According to Pankaj Parekh, Chairman of the Gem and jewellery Export Promotion Council, (ER), Kolkata jewellers have stuck to the exquisitely designed and exclusive hand-made jewellery, which has a huge market not just in India but also in the Gulf countries.

He pointed out “machine-made jewellery is mostly in 9, 12, 14 carat or 18 carat gold - preferred in the US, UK and European countries. But handmade ornaments are always in 22 carat or 24 carat, which is a major requirement of Indian and Middle Eastern clientele.”

Purity of gold

Says Nirmal Bera, a senior goldsmith working in one of the city’s trendy jewellery showrooms: “Hand-made jewellery takes time, as it is a delicate job and crafting designs is time consuming. Handmade jewellery looks better than machine-made ones, moreover, the purity of the gold is maintained in hand-made jewellery, which is not found in machine-made.  Handmade jewellery lasts longer than machine made jewellery and also those rolled out by the machines lack the variety of design in sharp contrast to hand made varieties.”

Kolkata jewellers mostly export to Dubai, which acts as the hub for the entire Middle-eastern region. According to Ketan Doshi, an exporter, the customers in the Gulf countries prefer hand made jewellery because no two pieces are similar. “All machine-made jewellery looks the same with thousands of replicas of the same design. But in hand-made jewellery, no two pieces are alike. It is impossible to replicate. Also, such exquisite, delicate and fine work can be done by hand that no machine can ever produce,” explains Ketan Doshi .

Gold connoisseurs or regular buyers like Neha Bagchi or Vaishali Khaitan, would never touch machine made jewellery with a barge pole. Says Vaishali, a customer: “The fear of wearing machine-made jewellery is that you might walk into a party and find another woman wearing the same thing. There can’t be a bigger fashion disaster than that. In India, we watch the jewellery more closely than the clothes. I would always opt for exclusive hand made ornaments.”  This apart, in handmade jewellery, the design options are thousand times more and customised jewellery can also be made either with  old s or even with new gold ornaments, adds Bagchi.

With destinations in Southeast Asia and West Asia, there is no dearth of takers for the city’s gold ornaments. Last year, total exports from Kolkata were worth Rs. 2,000 crore and this year, there has already been a positive growth of six per cent, according to Parekh, who expects it to touch at least 15 per cent by the end of the financial year. 

However, those jewellers who did export to the US admit that exports to the States were down by 50 per cent. Some jewellers in Kolkata were actually on the verge of switching to machine-made jewellery when the global meltdown set in. With the economic downturn resulting in negative growth in the export of gems and jewellery trade, India has been tapping such non-traditional markets as Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Kazakhistan to break the economic slowdown, Parekh said.  

Negative growth in exports

He added “Exports of gems and jewellery have seen a negative growth to the level of about 25 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal in view of the global downturn, forcing us to look for greener pastures.”

These countries have begun expressing an interest in Indian jewellery and efforts have been mounted to tap these emerging markets. “By October next, we hope to see some positive results as the global and domestic economies further stabilise,” he added. India exported gems and jewellery worth 21 billion US dollars during April-July, 2008 and the negative growth of about 25 per cent during the same period in the present fiscal has been a major cause for concern.

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