Jyotsna Singh, a maharaja's grand-daughter, doffs her corporate trilby for a jeweller's beret with her Manjusha line.
Meet Jyotsna Singh. Singh was just another corporate wheel; in this case, an exec at Levis Strauss in San Francisco with a penchant for designing jewellery. Also, she just happened to be the granddaughter of the maharaja of Patiala, the same royal who had Cartier make the diamond-studded stunner that lives on in legend as the spectacular Patiala necklace. When the pull of gemstones became more pronounced, Jyotsna made a life-changing decision. She gave up her job and took on a new one: that of jewellery designer. Thus was ‘Manjusha' born.
Typical of the project-driven Singh, though, she charted out a strategy that is as clear as it is effective. In her own words, “Last year, 2010, was the year of production. I went to Jaipur, found myself a karigar with magic in his fingers, and immersed myself into this new world of colour and energy. I started the transfer process to get my designs off the paper I had drawn them in and onto the stones themselves. I picked a plethora of semi-precious and precious gemstones — ruby, emerald, sapphire, diamond, carnelian, Indian jade, turquoise, aquamarine, citrine, rotile, amethyst, lapis — and fashioned fusion jewellery out of them.”
In India now
“This year,” continues Singh with a smile, “is the year of introducing India to Manjusha.” That involves some trunk shows, private previews and, of course, some PR; all of which Singh is not loath to do.
“Manjusha means a treasure chest of jewels,” says Singh. “This is bench jewellery: not formal jewellery costing many lakhs of rupees but not costume or cosmetic jewellery, either.”
The Manjusha line consists of an array of statement pieces: well-crafted neck pieces, rings galore, some splendid cuffs in hammered and worked gold embellished with stones, and earrings set with stones that grab all eyeballs. Set in gold-plated silver mostly, the designs are ingenious using combines of stones and colour to unusual and arresting effect.
Victorian sits well with neo-modern; the opulence of bygone times blends with the most contemporary of settings. So there is jadau and many strands of pearls, there are Victorian cameo-like pendants on uncut rubies, Art Deco winks alongside very desi motifs. The soft hues of rose quartz, aventurine and green amethyst meld beautifully with strong colours like turquoise, lapis and labrodorite. The Manjusha line is most affordable with most pieces ranging from Rs. 3,900 for earrings to Rs. 25,000 for necklaces.
Element of spirituality
For all the free flow, there is a strong element of spirituality in Singh's line. She says, “Occasionally, when I am designing, I do not recognise the end piece; it just emerges. Working with the stones becomes a spiritual experience for me. I prefer to work with semi-precious stones because of the variety of colours I can use and still keep it affordable.”
Singh has already shown her work in the U.S., and met with considerable success in Brazil, too. Late in 2009, she had private shows in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Kanpur, all pretty much sold-out shows. Now, she kick-starts the India 2011 shows with Bangalore.
In this second avatar, that of a jewellery designer, Jyotsna Singh no longer shies away from using her grandfather's name. After all, what Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala and Cartier did with thousand carats of diamonds back in 1928 is the stuff of pure legend. Simply put, the magic lives on.