Join Katie Gemstone Buying in Jaipur India
During our recent visit to Jaipur the majority of our time was taken up with gemstone selecting. I have been working with my main stone dealer for 20 years and we work in his office, situated in the centre of the old city in Jaipur.
The old city is a labyrinth of narrow allies and secret entrances and this is as private and off the beaten track as you can get. You are however in the heart of the action and his office is surrounded by small workshops and stone cutting studios. We are greeted in his office by a group of stone dealers, eager to show us their wares and each one sits and awaits his turn before his pile of paper stone packets is produced and the next search and process of elimination begins.
During the first couple of days we look through hundreds of packets from these various dealers and then narrow down the ones of interest to come back to over the rest of the buy trip.
My absolute favourite thing is the element of surprise, as much as I prepare pre trip and send wish lists, there are always unexpected packets of stones and unimagined finds.
Some highlights from this recent trip were a packet of peachy-pink morganite rose cut gemstones, blue-hued tourmaline watermelon slices , lInes of multi coloured sapphires beads and an astounding collection of emerald beads.
After so many travel restrictions it was wonderful to be back at work properly and the work I do cannot be simply done on line. Our jewellery is made of gemstones that are hand selected and considered and it was fantastic to be back in Jaipur doing this and moving on from the stasis of the last few years of travel restrictions.
The gemstones are normally housed in paper packets with coloured tissue inners - normally ones that show the colours of the gemstones inside to their best advantage.
For example a packet of white rainbow moonstones has a black tissue inner to maximise the impact of the white iridescent gems inside. Certain dealers deal certain stones and over the years I know people as ‘the emerald man’ rather than names, I am ashamed to say.
My main stone dealer is the master of ceremonies and presides over all the packets coming in, checking over my selections [eyebrows poised to be raised] and policing anyone who is trying to jump the queue.
As with all things in India, it is organised chaos, buzzing with chat and humour and it works brilliantly. Pieces of rough may also be put forward or packets of stones that still need to be polished and faceted.
It is fascinating to witness all these stages of production and especially when the finished article arrives in the UK and you remember the unpromising bit of rough rock it has been fashioned from.
The whole process of opening packets, picking up the stones, sifting and sorting is the nearest thing to meditation I will ever get to.
When we are looking through the packets we will have designs in mind and then - and this happens a lot - an exceptional packet is opened and new designs and ideas are inspired. I do not go with a fixed list, the gemstone buying is a fluid, organic process and this is the way that I like to work. Serendipity and surprise rule.
The buying is of course accompanied by good humoured bartering and this can be a long process to get undesirable price A to desirable price B. In fact I have a few packets still pending in Jaipur a month after the trip, still awaiting that price B to materialise…
Once the packets have been narrowed down, we divide them up into various piles for different designs and then start the task of going through each packet and planning out the stones for designs.
This is often done in a very high tech fashion - stones are placed on the trays in design order and desired configurations and then we sellotape them and seal them in their order ready to go to be set.
The packets that we select from comprise of free size gemstones. This means that the stones are all varied shapes and sizes and are not ‘calibrated’ lots. Calibrated gemstones are the ones that have been cut to standard sizes which can easily fit into existing, mass produced standard-sized jewellery settings without customising the mountings.
With our stones not being traditional standard sizes, it means each gem has to have a bespoke setting or bezel created for it.
This is what defines our pieces as truly hand crafted and hand made - there can be no quick automation of the setting of these stones and a series of cast mounts rolled out. Included above are some image of selected gems and their hand crafted bezels waiting to be set.
This is a hugely time consuming and skilled process and that makes all of our pieces unique and one of a kind.
Not all the stones selected are for setting and you can see lines/strings of gemstones here too. These are selected to be strung or to be wire knotted together and are separated to give to a different workshop that specialises in this process.
You can browse our gemstone beaded necklaces here.