Jaipur is a major gemstone hub for colored stone manufacturing like China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc. Gems are sourced through major trading centers where rough is imported for cutting and then exported as finished stones. Each has its own attributes, niches, and challenges.
Jaipur, India, is the historic pink city that doubles as the capital of Rajasthan. It is an exciting place, comprised of fairytale relics like palaces, forts, grooms in traditional attire traveling to weddings on elephants, and a global leading colored gemstone cutting and trading industry. Jaipur is also a hub for jewelry manufacturing. The jewelry industry here dates back to the early 1700s, when the city was founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the Raja (king) of Amer. Early in the city’s history, great importance was placed on bringing in top craftsmen, including jewelers, to create fine products for the royal family and to make the city a leading center for producing fine-quality luxury products. (from GIA)
“Johari Bazaar, one of Jaipur's premier gem trade centers, comprised of emporiums dealing in gemstones. Cutting and importing gemstones is Jaipur’s major industry, and the center of India's gem trade. They have the most skilled, well-trained craftsmen and also create a huge range of jewelry. The foundation of the industry in the city is an ancient one, and it is still vital to the city."
Getting to Jaipur bears a few inconveniences as Jaipur is not home to any International Airport. Hence, you have to fly for 18 hours from New York to Delhi and then you have to suffer the added inconvenience of picking up a local plane to your next destination. I usually arrive in Delhi late at night. Exiting the airport is an experience. You are greeted by thousands of people waiting anxiously for their loved one(s). It is usually a cultural shock the first experience of arriving in Delhi airport. The crowd stands about 10 rows deep, comprised of people waiting, and trying to exit to get a taxi is a task. You also have to make reservation at a local hotel for an overnight stay. Being jet-lagged and tired, this further adds to the drudgery. Fortunately, most of the indigenes are fluent in English and friendly to boot. Most of my Delhi visits comprised of an overnight stay at a local hotel. The next morning, I would usually take a flight on India Air to Jaipur. India's only domestic airline, Indian Airlines was very much in the news in the 1990-2000. Fatal accidents involving at least one passenger death or significant safety occurrences involving the airline were a major problem and I was aware of the danger of traveling with India Air. But I felt then that I was not the first one to make the trip and its either I make it or I die in a crash. The planes were always crowded and you had to carry your luggage on your lap. But, once you arrive in Jaipur, you feel it is worth the trip. It is a beautiful city. The city is ancient and not modernized, yet rich in culture, architecture and gems.
My experience in Jaipur buying gemstones is possibly the most exhilarating and exciting. The gems that they mostly manufacture are emeralds but they also manufacture rubies from Burma. The emeralds are imported from Brazil or Zambia. These emeralds have different colors and are best for manufacturing middle range jewelry. These trips were always short. I would usually stay in any city for 3-4 days. I would look at gems for the first day or two; put aside the ones I liked and then the last day go over them and negotiate the price and the rejection percentage from the lot. Each stone was examined by me to make sure it is clean and the color is to my taste. I usually would look at thousands of stones during each of my trips. Whether the stones were small or large, each stone was carefully examined. There is about 20% margin for error in trips such as this, which were short and stressful. I tried to avoid mistakes but being tired from jetlag, looking at gems for a long period of time and having personal issues is always a cocktail for mistakes. My son was young and was anxious for my return home. My feeling of guilt from being away always overwhelmed me.
I was known in the gem industry as a queen of cabochon. My love of cabochon stones is to make fashion jewelry. They have a big look and are less expensive than faceted stones. They are colorful and some cabochon are as expensive as faceted gemstones. I know that faceted stones are more desirable but when you make a big-sized jewel and include a faceted stone, it turns the jewel into one of a kind and it is not a fashion statement jewelry. Cabochon gems come in a variety of colors. They are available in emeralds, rubies and sapphires. You can make a big-sized jewel with a few of these stones and the price is affordable. The value of the cabochon stones is not as high as faceted stones but it is still regarded as gemstones. They must have a perfect top with no blemishes. The color must be a perfectly desirable and distributed color which is expected in all variety of gemstones. It was hard to explain my philosophy to dealers overseas and I guess they thought that being a woman I knew nothing. It was actually a compliment. Women can recognize color more distinctly. Women can see different hues and know what will look good as a finished jewel. We don’t’ have many women in my industry and I was one of the very few but I feel that my jewels are some of the best cut and that my customers always appreciate my expertise. It was tough to spend 6 hours in an office in Jaipur where only men were showing me gems. The gem dealers in Jaipur originate from an affluent society and are rooted in the city through generation of gem dealers. Their culture prohibits their women from working and they are sheltered and protected until they get married, usually by means of an arranged marriage. My culture is not much different from most Middle or Far Eastern cultures. I learned early in my life that staying low is safe. Women in India don’t have as a as many rights as we do in the USA. Even though, most of Indian society is educated and cultured, women are still controlled by the fathers and later the husbands.
My background is also from this world. I was born in Pakistan and even though I am not Hindu, I can pass as a local. I always looked familiar to people in India. So, I was embraced by the gem dealers and always felt protected and nurtured by them. I found that throughout my travels to buy gemstones, I always gravitated toward gem dealers as a father protective figure. Their society value women’s virtues and are extremely respectful. I also come from a family of Gemstone dealers and manufacturers that are respected throughout the world.
I used to travel to Jaipur twice a year. It was a major gem center for my business. It was a very difficult trip due to the distance from a major airport and the weather. The winters are cold and there is usually no heating system in their hotels and the summers are hot and wet.
My most memorial trip in India was with a man who later became my husband. We decided to travel to Agra. I was tired at the end of our trip. We rented a car and a driver who drove us through India. It was a most beautiful trip, we arrived at Agra late that night and Larry woke me up at dawn and asked me to go to the roof to look at the Taj Mahal. It was then that I fell in love with him. The sun rising against this large rich monument in the middle of poverty, it is a culture to be admired.
Traveling in India is an experience that I recommend highly.
Please contact me if you have any questions.