Jyotsna Singh generously sprinkles on her jewellery line, Manjusha, that royal touch, but with a contemporary sensibility

When you think Indian women royalty, inevitably it's a chiffon-and-pearls image that comes to mind instantly. Polo and palaces, royal secret recipes, perhaps. And fashion and jewellery design?

You think you've got Jyotsna Singh all figured out when you read about her — granddaughter of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, who commissioned French jewellery house Cartier to create the famed Patiala Necklace studded with over 2,900 diamonds, nearly 75 years ago.

In the last one year Jyotsna's own international label of jewellery — Manjusha — has quietly made its way from the USA, to Jaipur, to Brazil, to London and Bangalore.

You expect to meet royalty in chiffon-and-pearls and Jyostna is a pleasant surprise — in a chunky beaten gold neckpiece and a brushed gold bracelet teamed with western semi-formals. Yet, she fits the stereotype so well, the question begs asking — why is Indian royalty so largely into design — clothes or jewellery? “I think there is a connection — maybe earlier I would've said I don't know. It's intrinsic… it must be in the genes,” smiles Jyotsna Singh. “There's so much focus on jewellery and clothes for generations. I guess it's a stereotype that works,” she shrugs with an amiable smile. In fact, her cousins, fellow royalty, love her designs and buy them. “I saw fabulous jewellery growing up, specially at weddings — it was something taken for granted.”

Dig a little deeper and this 55-year-old grandmother of two admits: “I was always a rebel; I wanted a career.” She studied hotel management in Delhi, worked with the Taj group for two years in Bombay in their F&B division, was with Jet Air and also had a real estate business before she entered the vast world of corporate America. She's been in the U.S. for 30 years now and lives in San Francisco, and was with Levi's Strauss' sales division for 13 years! “That was a world I had to be in. I was bringing up my children and didn't want to pursue any ambition. Once they grew up, I left that world and it was such a relief.”

Jyotsna got into jewellery design in 2010. “I finally found my passion. I stumbled into it and then friends encouraged me. I love working with stones and colours. I'm never short of ideas and when I see a concept in my mind, I just draw it out. I find it hard to answer when people ask ‘What does your collection mean?' Jewellery is worn to enhance the way you look!” is her simple explanation. Her Manjusha line consists of gold-plated silver jewellery set with semi precious stones — something that helps keep her pricing down (Rs. 3,500 to Rs. 25,000). The pieces are inspired by royal Jadau designs. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings and cocktail-rings, studded with citrine, amethyst, lapis, turquoise, pearls, and labrodorite figure prominently in her collection. There's beautiful Kundan-style neckpieces, jaali-worked cuffs. Jaipur is where craftsmen execute her designs.

She's largely kept a low profile doing private in-trunk shows. “I was focusing on design and production. Now that I see people love my designs, I feel confident to step out. The challenge of a small business is that you have to do everything. Now social networking has brought up many opportunities; I'm not tech-savvy but I've learnt it the hard way.” In a few months she'll be selling her jewellery on the web too. She's headed next to Hyderabad and then Bangkok to exhibit her line.

The Manjusha collection will be on sale in Bangalore at Rugs and Riches, Devatha Plaza, 131, Residency Road from August 4 to 6, 10 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Call 41125662.

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