Exquisite High Jewellery, Wearable Art
“Inspired by Heritage, Fueled by Legacy, Carried Forward by Innovation” is how SAVAAB Jewels describe their ethos, and this is the absolute, unvarnished truth about this high jewellery brand. SAVAAB Jewels is the modern realization of Indian heritage, the family legacy of the founder, Apurva Kothari, and jewellery craftsmanship techniques of the twenty-first century. While their pieces do take their inspiration from India’s storied past, the story they tell is very contemporary and unmistakably international in its appeal. At SAVAAB Jewels, proportions and quality of gems are of paramount importance and the pieces crafted at their Mumbai atelier are nothing short of jeweled art adornments. Each piece is imbued with a spellbinding synergy of delicate craftsmanship and beautifully cut gems. From exquisite and rare gemstones to high craftsmanship and innovative jewellery techniques, SAVAAB Jewels is changing how high art jewellery is perceived, one jewel at a time.
I recently caught up with Apurva Kothari, the founder, jewellery designer and creative genius behind SAVAAB Jewels. Apurva is a warm, insightful and very gracious person. His enthusiasm for his brand as well as for high jewellery in general, is almost infectious. In addition, his vast knowledge about diamonds and coloured gemstones, very much a part of his family legacy, is exceptionally impressive and comes through very casually in his conversation. In our conversation, we talked about SAVAAB Jewels’ very unique and distinctive design aesthetic, what high craftsmanship means to the jewellery brand and how SAVAAB Jewels is changing the high jewellery landscape in India and beyond.
I am very curious about the name of your high jewellery brand, SAVAAB. It has such a beautiful meaning. Could you tell us why you chose this name?
SAVAAB in Urdu means- ‘A heavenly reward for doing noble deeds’
I always wanted a special meaning to the name of my jewelry brand. The dream of building a luxury jewelry brand was envisioned for a much later stage of my life. A conversation with my wife, one late afternoon in New York in the latter half of 2006, about what plans I had for the future brought about the topic of what I would like to call my future brand. After delving into many words and names, including my own, ‘SAVAAB’ seemed to be the perfect find and most appropriate considering that the roots of the word and the inspiration behind the designs I wished to create, all originated from Mughal and Islamic Culture, Art and Architecture.
You started your career as a banker and then transitioned into the jewellery industry, first as a diamantaire and then as the jewellery designer for your brand, Savaab. What prompted you to make these career changes and did you encounter any road bumps along the way?
I was always inclined towards Mathematics and Business and the path I chose, to study Finance, allowed me to blend the two. Post my undergrad at Carnegie Mellon University, Banking seemed to be the most obvious choice for a career. However, a mere six months at an Investment Bank in New York made me realize that I was cut out for something more hands on, where I could still use my skills in Finance but work with a tangible product. I moved to Mumbai in early 2001 to train in the family diamond business to become a diamantaire. Whilst learning to sort diamonds I was further exposed and trained in the craft of jewellery manufacturing as it was, by default, a step up in the supply chain. In these couple of years of training I would occasionally draw rough sketches of jewels only to realize that I had a sharp eye for proportion, detail and design. Post training, I spent five long years in New York, getting a real taste of the B2B aspect of the jewellery industry by supplying high fashion jewelry to independent jewelers, large retail chains and home shopping networks within America, the Caribbean and Mexico. This is where I truly learnt the ropes, faced the hardship of not only selling in a cut-throat environment, but most importantly learning to deal with long credit and customer returns. The lessons I took away from my stint in New York became the founding pillars to the brand I have built today. In fact, during those years in New York, unconsciously, I was planting the seed to build a brand wherein every piece would have an inherent value upon creation, something that is born from my own ingenuity with materials that were difficult to source and would eventually be sold to consumers who would appreciate and be willing to pay for the originality. By 2007, the Indian market had started to emerge as a global player, and I found that the niche for high-end, one-of-a-kind jewellery using unusual and unique diamond cuts was untapped; that’s when I decided to establish SAVAAB, to create a fine jewellery brand with exclusive designs combining my manufacturing experience of the West with Indian aesthetics.
Your jewellery designs are a fusion of Indian, particularly Mughal motifs seen through a more contemporary Western lens. What challenges, if any, have you faced in bridging this Historic East-Modern West design style?
There are several benefits to working in the West, especially when it comes to quality and overall finish. But the one thing that exists in the East is the ability to combine its rich cultural heritage and traditional art form with jewelry design. Initially it was a challenge to explain to the craftsmen why minimal gold was preferred in executing high end design, as for years in India they were accustomed to using large quantities of gold in manufacturing the ornaments. Apart from the motifs in the design, translating the intricate details, those that are not visible in the sketch, in terms of flexibility and delicacy of the overall form, from my mind to their hands took lengths of time. ‘Proportion’ the most vital part of all our jewels, this aspect of design is exceptionally well executed in the west, and it took a long time for our craftsmen to understand the value of proportion and imbibe it in all our jewels.
SAVAAB prides itself on their exceptional craftsmanship. What does high craftsmanship mean to you and why is it a cornerstone of your jewellery brand?
As the saying goes- “God lies in the details.” And at SAVAAB we are all about the details. High quality craftsmanship to me is all about focusing on these details, focusing on each and every aspect of design, material selection, execution and eventually delivering the finest jewel. It is this attention to detail that sets us apart from the rest and allows us to break barriers and improve our standards. It all stems from the desire to create pieces that hold an inherent value even before they have left our showcase; it is this detail oriented craftsmanship within the creation that intrigues, inspires and eventually allows it to find its own home.
Your process starts with envisioning the jewellery design first. How difficult is it to translate that idea into an actual piece of jewellery? Have you ever had to make changes to the original design to incorporate the gemstones?
The design is of utmost importance to me. Given a choice, the gems come second to the design and former only flows with what is required of the latter. Keeping this in mind, every curve, every hinge and every prong is carefully placed in the design in order to eventually reach the desired result. The craftsman must keep to the same level of intricacy and in order to achieve the result I am involved at every stage of the jewels creation. The process of translating the jewel envisioned in my mind to the hands of the craftsman is where the effort lies in accomplishing the task at hand. Conveying the angles, proportion, design lines goes way beyond simple communication as the journey is more emotional than physical.
I rarely have had to change the original design to incorporate the gemstone but there are times when we need to reshape the gems based on the design. It’s heart-breaking to damage good quality gemstones in the quest for perfection but the desired result, when achieved, is even more gratifying. At times, as nature has it, we find unique gems that have an innate beauty and I work the design around the gemstone to highlight this beauty.
At Savaab, you were probably one of the first jewellery houses in India to introduce some very different gemstones such as tanzanites, citrines, coloured diamonds and fancy-cut diamonds in high jewellery. What was the reaction of your clients to these off-the-beaten-path precious gemstones? Over the past decade or so, how else has Savaab changed the idea of high jewellery in a very modern Indian setting?
We were one of the first to introduce Tanzanites as an alternative to Blue Sapphires (as Indians rarely wear Blue Sapphires as astrologically they believe it may bring them bad luck.) We sourced some of nicest deep blue tanzanites and incorporated them into our signature settings combining them with Rose Cut & Brilliant cut Diamonds and Emeralds and this combination continues to be one of our best sellers till date.
Rose Cut Diamonds perfectly compliment the designs I create as they add a soft and subtle shine to the jewel allowing the design to speak. They further accentuate the beauty of the coloured stones and pearls that embellish the creations. We take great pride in being amongst the first to use these and other fancy cut diamonds in high jewelry in India. The combination of these diamonds with Coloured Gemstones and Pearls in modern settings have been highly appreciated by connoisseurs for over a decade and continue to be the driving force behind the brand.
We have made a mark amongst collectors, women who have a strong individuality and those who understand quality and aspire for an artistic statement piece as against over-the-top jewellery.
Recently on Instagram, Savaab Jewels posted “Water is one of the most metamorphic elements found in nature. From water, SAVAAB derives the quality of being adaptive and revolutionary, using extraordinary pieces to complement and transform its wearer.” This is such a profound and interesting quote and really speaks to the DNA of your jewellery brand as a trend setter. Would you like to elaborate on this?
In the times we live in, I believe, one of the greatest assets a person or brand can possess is the ability to adapt. Just like water changes to ice or steam under different situations and adapts itself to fit the necessary profile to exist, a person, a business or a brand must imbibe this virtue to adapt, it allows for continuity. Whether it be in design, technology, business or philosophy one must always be ready to adapt to the necessary changes and mould themselves. At SAVAAB we highly value this trait as an adaptive mindset frees the mind of restrictions and opens the door to change and improvement.
As a jewellery designer, what is the one gemstone you love to work with and why?
I love to work with Diamonds. This gemstone can be combined with any other stone and complement it in a way that not only does it bring out its own beauty but it allows for other gemstones to gleam alongside its magnificence. In my opinion, only a diamond possesses this quality to blend with each and every gemstone. I especially like to work with diamonds that have a softer glow, those that appear to have a river flowing through them.
Savaab has now expanded into the Middle East Jewellery market and is fast gaining a diverse international clientele, but your biggest market is at home, in India. How are you Indian clients different from your international ones?
Our clients in the middle-east are much like our clients in India in terms of their tastes and preferences. They all appreciate modern setting styles blended with traditional design elements and influenced by Mughal art and architecture.
How would you describe your personal fashion style?
Three things that make you happy?
Peace of mind, good health, happy relationships
Favourite breakfast on the weekends?
Cappuccino, Avocado on Toast & Scrambled Eggs
Do you wear any of your own jewellery pieces? If so, what are they?
Yes, Brooches & Cufflinks
If you could be one superhero for a day, who would it be?
Superman – Nothing beats the freedom of flight
Beach Holiday or Love the Mountains?
Two people from Indian History you would love to have High Tea with?
Maharani Gayatri Devi, JRD Tata
Thank you so much Apurva for your generosity in taking time out of your busy day to answer my questions.
Featured Image: Pearl and Diamond Lotus on Diamond Riverbed Bracelet, SAVAAB Jewels
You can follow SAVAAB Jewels on Instagram at @savaabjewels
You can meet with Apurva Kothari, by appointment only, at: Aman Chambers, 7th Floor, Opera House, Mumbai – 400004, India. Telephone +91 22 2365 7777
All images used in this post are the property of SAVAAB Jewels. Any person or organization not affiliated with SAVAAB Jewels may not use, copy, alter or modify any of the images used in this post, without the advance written permission of SAVAAB Jewels.