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Romancing the stones

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Stones of varied shapes and shades seem to beckon the style-conscious. Here's why they cast a spell

Fathima Babu sparkles when she sits down to read the news bulletin. Suhasini releases gorgeous ones in her TV shows. Stones of all colours sparkle as participants stick their neck out with comments on “We The People”. Anchors in suits wear them, so do TV stars in conventional clothes. Corporate women take them to boardrooms. From informal and occasional to formal and regular — stone-and-silver jewellery has made it to the mainstream. Did narikuravas beam off their popularity, selling them off the street?

“Women wear stones for a string of reasons,” says Ashok Kumar Kadel of Sri Jugal Kishore in Chennai. Gold prices are up and recession has made them unreachable. Coincidentally, women's wardrobes have expanded to include non-sari outfits, and colour is the concept. “You couldn't wear chunky jewellery with salwar-kurtas and slim trousers,” he says. “You mix-and-match jeans with traditional Kashmiri embroidery and bling work, and need accessories to go with that. You need new thinking.”

Brides join the race. And, that is to buy multi-coloured stones strung together into chic jewellery. “Ten years ago, if you bought silver/silver-dipped-in-gold, the family would “aiyo paavam” you,” Ashok points out. Only toe rings ( metti) and anklets ( kolusu) were made in silver. Now, even brides wear funky jewellery, says a salesgirl at Sukra, Mylapore, which has a huge foreign/NRI clientèle for its temple jewellery.

“Gems have always fascinated me,” says Revathi Seshadri, 68, who's fallen hook, line and silver for the trend. “I'm happy to wear something valuable as well as beautiful. There's no resale value, and hence chain-snatchers keep away.” She believes bead culture will usurp the place of gold, at least among youngsters. “They've better use for their money.”

Plain to exotic

Retailers are cashing in. “We exchange, and we modify what customers bring,” says Ravi Shankar of Narayana Pearls and Gems. “Fashions change; everyone wants something unique and different. It's client-driven.” Workers sitting in the showroom re-cycle the pieces, and even as you watch, morph a plain string into something exotic. A tribal figure is a pendant, a Coorgi kolusu, a close-necked choker. “Seven years ago, when I brought in stone to expand my business, I wasn't sure it would sell,” says Ashok. “Now it's good business.”

Says Padma Naveen, Director, Nimble Kids: “Fusion jewellery is vibrant and colourful, and breaks the monotony. I do justice to my clothes only when I wear the right accessories, matched or contrasted.” It helps that her mother-in-law Sudha Mahesh, Principal, HeadStart, collects stones/pearls/coral during her travels and strings customised stuff for the family. “My six-year-old loves the light ones grandma makes,” says Padma. And, they are affordable.

Shobana of TWC films buys (and loans) them in large varieties and numbers for her ad shoots. For Meera Jasmine's ad for a clothes-store, she opted for beads. “They're bright, go well with all dresses and...they can be strung on the spot.” Trendy, is her final word.

DETAILS MATTER

Get the stone authenticated Look for the 92.5 Hallmark on silver.

Alternative jewellery includes pieces made of coconut shells, twisted cloth or colourful seeds

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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