For the Sangam girls

Was there a contemporary inspiration (for this collection)? “Chennai. Its women. They’re sophisticated, they’re tasteful, and they have a wonderful eye for design. It’s the perfect home for this collection,” says Swapna Mehta   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Jewellery designer Swapna Mehta admits that she spends a lot of time scavenging and discovering “great craftsmanship” in the most unlikely of sources. “Last year, while vacationing in Bhuj, we were driving through a village. On the outskirts, I saw a small jewellery shop where I found stunning naths and some rustic pieces. On another one of my trips to Goa, in a small jewellery shop in Mapusa, I stumbled upon a gold and emerald men’s jacket decoration (like a brooch),” she says. It is a habit she picked up 25 years ago: disappointed by the gifts of machine-made wedding jewellery, she set about curating her own collection with finds from pawnshops and dealers in the distinctive alleyways of Hyderabad’s Charminar Bazaar.

This led to experimentation. For instance, she has thrown together a single jhumka, parts of an old necklace, some nose rings and nakshi jada fragments to produce a statement neck piece. Created in a similar manner, Mehta’s newest collection, Sangam, is “a tribute to the idealism and strength depicted by the women featured in early Tamil epics” — she has named each piece after an influential poetess from the golden era of Tamil literature — Aditi, Urvasi, Ratri and Sudevi, among others. The collection will be showcased at her Chennai debut next week, at Amethyst.

Swapna Mehta

Swapna Mehta   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Stating that the line of pendants, necklaces, earrings and rings maintains a “delicate balance” between opulence and elegance, she explains, “I have been fascinated by Sangam literature as most of it is not religious but about akam (love) and puram (heroism). The women of the period are powerful and mighty. In fact, they’re quite reflective of the women of today.” And was there a contemporary inspiration? “Chennai. Its women. They’re sophisticated, they’re tasteful, and they have a wonderful eye for design. It’s the perfect home for this collection.”

Starting from scratch

Each collection begins with her procuring specific pieces from rural and tribal areas. “I prefer to call (my work) found pieces,” Mehta says, adding, “I like using pieces that contain pure gold and precious gemstones. Lots of times, I use discarded single earrings (if the pair is missing or lost) or even half-made pieces which are abandoned and incomplete when the goldsmith’s client suddenly cancelled the order. This adds an element of surprise to the design.” And it is what leads her on scavenger hunts across cities. But the real challenge comes when carrying a piece forward into a new identity in a way that caters to traditionalists as well as the trend-savvy Gen Z and millennial generation. “There is also the difficulty of incorporating these finds without tampering with or damaging them. I want the jewellery to tell a story,” she concludes.

Swapna Mehta makes her Chennai debut with Sangam, at Amethyst. On January 23 and 24, from 11 am to 7.30 pm. From ₹4 lakh to ₹30 lakh.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 2:00:23 PM |

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