METRO PLUS

Gem of a trade

GLITTERING OPTION: Courses in gemology give a student practical knowledge.

GLITTERING OPTION: Courses in gemology give a student practical knowledge.  

The Deccan Institute of Gem and Jewellery with courses on gemology, diamonds and designing jewellery offers a promising career option with the entry of designer brands like Nakshatra, De Beers and Arsia.

THOUGH THE Deccan region has a long and rich tradition of exquisite jewellery, little has gone into the scientific study of the art. The famous Golconda mines have not only yielded the likes of the Kohinoor, but are also still being prospected for diamonds.

The Deccan has known traditional jewellery of the Vijaynagar period, the Kakatiyas, the Moghuls and boasts a rich repertoire, but unfortunately this has been confined to a few families. All this while, this knowledge was closely held and any outside interest was resented. Consequently gemology as an industry lagged behind and valuable data was lost to later generations.

To stem this fast dissipating art, Satish Shah, the son of renowned gemmologist Govindas Mukundas, who was also the jeweller to the Nizam decided to set up the Deccan Institute of Gem and Jewellery. Trained at the American Gemology Institute, Shah first started a gem-testing lab in 1978. While he catered to customers during the day, mornings were devoted to training would-be gemmologists.

Shah says, "In these 15 years I must have trained at least 300 people. Most of who are now well placed in the trade." But training free of cost was not financially viable as he was unable to replenish his workshop with the latest equipment.

To keep up with the times, he formalised the training schedule with three-and-a-half month capsules for study of gemology, diamonds and jewellery design. The institute offers these courses for a moderate fee. Presently a batch of 35 students is undergoing training.

Surprisingly, there are no government sponsored or recognised courses in India, despite our country having a substantial trade in diamonds.

According to Satish Shah, these courses give a student practical knowledge in the art and open up opportunities in India and abroad as consultants. Shah's daughter, Priyanka, who also is a qualified jewellery designer, says, "Jewellery houses like Carbon, Gili and Tanishq who are setting the trend are also looking for trained designers. The regular, heavy, traditional jewellery is pass� with the new woman preferring small designer stuff to go with her dress, work or attitude. Jewellery is no more considered an investment."

With women willing to experiment with non-traditional stones like amethyst, turquoise, lapis etc, with an accent on design, jewellery designers have become hot commodity.

The students at the institute are taught not only to come up with innovative designs, but also customise jewellery to the customer's persona. Priyanka says, "for instance compact ear studs are designed for oval faces to cut the length, muted coloured stones are for dark complexioned, close to the neck designs are advised for long necks and so on."

ROCK SOLID: Students are encouraged to come up with innovative designs.

ROCK SOLID: Students are encouraged to come up with innovative designs.  

According to Shah, courses in gemology gained primacy with the coming of brands like Nakshatra, De Beers and Arsia in the market.

He says these houses, unlike the traditional jewellers, are scientific in their approach. They create a confidence in the buyer by clarifying the qualities of gemstones like colour; weight, clarity, cut and most importantly offer the buy back option.

With the market becoming more aware, experts in gemology are likely to be in great demand. The institute is established to equip students with such skills that make them expert in identifying the physical and chemical properties of the gems to international standards of clarity, proportions, pricing, grading, cutting and processing. The student is introduced to the international markets for buying and selling.

"In the West," Shah says, "jewellery is bought solely for pleasure, unlike in India where it is looked upon as an investment. This is not very wise as investing in gold is a dead investment. Over the years we have become hoarders of gold, whereas other countries use gold to boost their economy by investing in technology, research, education.

This is our biggest bane, and other countries use this mentality to dump gold here. Despite having large quantities of gold, we as a country are still poor!" Gems can be a medium of investment, only if they are of rare quality, size, colour and cut, all other stones are of no consequence.

"People in the West consult labs and experts before making such investments in stones," says Shah. In fact students passing out of the institute can find an excellent slot by becoming investment consultants in gems.

ARUNA MASARGUPPI

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