Sabyasachi’s idiosyncratic bohemian aesthetics have found a new application in the designer’s new high jewellery collection, The Bengal Byzantine Broadway Collection, retailing exclusively at the Jewelry Salon in Bergdorf Goodman in New York. The pieces that make up the collection are a result of the cultural cross-pollination of the east and the west. The craftsmanship of Bengal, found especially in the designer’s ateliers, meets the exuberance of the Byzantine era and ultimately borrows from the theatricality of Broadway. The result? Earrings, necklaces and earrings that boast of India’s rich cultural heritage elevated to global design aesthetics. With high jewellery that heroes gemstones set in a baroque style, this collection is perfect for people who want to take the off-kilter approach with their joaillerie. We speak with Sabyasachi who traces the unique journey of his jewellery from Bengal to New York, and everything in between.
How different is designing jewellery from designing clothes?
For the last two decades I built a heritage fashion brand based on a simple value system. Sabyasachi Jewellery has been built with the same principles— authenticity, integrity, quality and the finest of craftsmanship. These values become the bridge between the two. So while it is different because you are dealing with a very different set of materials, crafts, technology and even knowledge systems—when your foundation is strong one seeps seamlessly into the other.
How would you define your aesthetics when it comes to jewellery?
I think defining an aesthetic is limiting. I am very sure of what I love and I’m even sure of what I don’t. I think the aesthetic of my jewellery is a determined confidence in my point of view and the finest of craftsmanship that brings it all together.
The Bengal Byzantine Broadway Collection has a bohemian appeal to it. What kind of stones have been used in these pieces?
I love working with an almost hedonistic mix of gemstones. I like breaking the hierarchy of precious stones, by mixing tourmalines, diamonds, emeralds and rubies with dalmatians, pyrites, apatites and turquoise and so on and on. I think it’s my many years as a colourist that guide my eye with gemstones. You need to be an artist to make jewellery that can stand the test of time.
What aspects of the Byzantine period inspired you the most that have also been incorporated in this collection?
From the history to the aesthetic and techniques—there’s a lot that has influenced me from Byzantine jewellery. From that beautiful sense of rustic finery to their use of gold and multi-coloured gemstones. It’s interesting how they became such connoisseurs of an entire spectrum of stones because they had terribly restrictive laws regulating who could and couldn’t wear precious stones, with the most precious reserved for the emperor’s use. That restriction led to them making jewellery with all sorts of gemstones. They liked their jewellery colourful, just as I do. Their techniques be it engraving cabochons, glyptography, setting stones in collets, hinged bracelets and gold repousse—all find a way into my jewellery. What I love is how the historical east and west come together in such synchronicity. And how similar a lot of their techniques and styles are to our own Indian jewellery heritage.
What is your process of designing? On an average, how much time did it take to make a necklace, a bangle, and earrings?
I work produce backwards, a bit like a farm to table chef—so, it all depends on the harvest at the local market. It begins with the craft, gemstones, moulds and castings. I don’t sketch, it’s too limiting, and I always feel it lends a sterile feel to the final product. I don’t like to fix the destination, I like to discover it and enjoy the proverbial journey. I am a tactile spontaneous thinker, I like to feel my precious metals and gemstones and various crafts coming together. Design is almost a visceral reaction. My mission is to create a well-rounded sensitive piece of jewellery that can stand the test of time.
How do you think an association like this helps further Indian artisans into the global space?
I think it’s time for Indian artisanal jewellery to get back into the global spotlight. Not just as museum pieces but as a rich thriving living legacy. Our annual presentation at Bergdorf is a great platform to bring craft and design to a global audience. In a world of lab grown diamonds and synthetic stones the way we value jewellery will change. If value comes from rarity, what is more rare than the finest of heritage crafts? I believe craftsmanship is the true marker of the value of jewellery. And while India’s legacy of craftsmanship is beyond spectacular, over the years it has become diluted and endangered and we need to strive towards conserving the finest of our crafts. This is what is going to make jewellery priceless in the years to come.
Image courtesy Sabyasachi
Photographed by Tarun Khiwal, Make Up by Deepa Verma, Hair by Mitesh Rajani
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