Creative thinking is giving these powerhouses in the local jewellery scene an edge in changing the game—in this series, we speak to four women who embody that pioneering spirit.
Vihari Poddar knows first-hand how much time and effort making jewellery takes. When she was a rookie in the industry, she once spent nine months crafting a piece by hand, but in spite of that, the founder and designer of Vihari Jewels believes that once that attention to craft is lost, then the meaning of jewellery changes. That is why, though computer-aided methods may have opened doors for jewellers and made jewellery more cost-effective and widely available, she feels that they have their downsides. “I still believe that jewellery is an heirloom. The reason you can pay so much for a piece of jewellery is because you know you’re paying for the crafting,” she says. I have lived by that ever since I got into this [industry].”
“When [computer-aided methods are] used in making jewellery, it makes me a bit upset, because I’m an artisan myself, and if someone’s going to take my job away and just get a machine to do it…,” she trails off, the underlying subtext apparent. She continues, “But I also think it makes people like myself rarer, because we have an ethos that we’re going to make everything by hand.”
Poddar sees the value of innovations that support gemstone mapping and cutting, though. Jewellery by the fourth generation scion of a diamond trading family has showcased special cuts like kite-shaped diamonds and even stones that take the form of oxen, rhinoceroses and rabbits. “That’s where technology is super cool, because we can cut diamonds into different shapes and make the whole picture of the jewellery look so different,” she says, “[compared to] just having round or pear-shaped gems, which are among a small number of gemstone cuts that we’ve been working with for maybe 300 years.”
Similarly, cutting a rough can be preceded with machine-aided three-dimensional mapping that reveals the ideal shapes and sizes of gemstones that can be derived from a particular cut, a step that reduces mistakes and wastage. But to have the best of both worlds, “you still need to put both minds together: use the technology to reduce risk and then use the wisdom [of experience] to get the best out of it,” Poddar adds.
PHOTOGRAPHY JAYA KHIDIR
ART DIRECTION GREGORY WOO
HAIR & MAKEUP SHA SHAMSI, USING CHANEL BEAUTY AND KEUNE
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT IVAN ISKANDAR PADRON YASSIN