Adorn is a bi-monthly magazine dedicated to luxury jewellery

Modernist At Heart

SHARE
, / 261 0
Modernist At Heart

Diverse interests make HARSHAD AJOOMAL a fascinating jewellery artist. Known for his ultramodern aesthetics, Harshad dives deep into his hobbies and learns new art forms to hone his artistic skills. Being by the sea inspires and energises him no end. But that is not all – he meditates, is an avid scuba-diver and a swimmer, and has begun to recently learn sculpting and organic farming. A seasoned globe-trotter, Harshad loves to visit museums around the world, and is fascinated by architecture and history. He has also written some children’s adventure books, which hopefully he will publish some day. Colour plays a very important role in Harshad’s avant-garde designs that lean towards abstract influences. Paying utmost importance to form and function, the talented artist has an impressive body of modern designs that transcend timeline barriers.


Modernist-At-Heart

The winner of Artisan Awards 2019 – a hat for the races inspired by a constellation of pearls and diamonds.


Modernist-At-Heart-2

A finalist at 2018 Couture show in Las Vegas in the colored stone category, this pair of ear clips features amethyst petals topped with filigree work in gold, peppered with diamonds.


You are known as for introducing fashion-forward fine jewellery in the industry. How did you steer towards it? When did you establish your brand H. Ajoomal?
It’s been a long journey of learning, a trial to reach where I am today. The process actually starts when you begin to expose yourself to various forms of design aesthetics and culture. That’s when your brain gets trained to observe and absorb different mediums and art forms. I love history, art, fashion, and new and old architecture. With time, your own style emerges but this journey doesn’t end; it’s lifelong. I have recently started learning sculpture and organic farming.

What was the trigger to join the jewellery industry? Where did you study gemmology and jewellery making?
I was 19, and came from a business background. I was studying Commerce at HR College and to beat boredom during one summer vacation, my father suggested I take up a gemmology course at the Gemmological Institute of India (GII) where my cousin, Navin Jashnani, was a professor. So, I joined the programme and had a blast. I fell in love with diamonds and gemstones and since then there was no looking back. Navin wanted to get into the jewellery business and suggested I join him. Since there were no schools to learn goldsmithing skills in India at that time I worked as an apprentice at a jewellery factory in the master making department. It was very hard work for a year or so but I look back and realise I understand or think in 3D because of what I learnt on the bench.

I always knew I had a creative side to me; my mother tells me I used to love making things when I was younger and was very good at sketching. I guess this line of work made perfect sense. As a designer, I get a creative outlet, I love product development and manufacturing, and above all, my Sindhi business acumen is put to good use.

After studying gemmology I joined my cousin Navin Jashnani to establish Sama, a business-to-business company that manufactured contemporary fine jewellery in the 1990s and 2000s when hardly anyone was engaged in designer and high quality stuff. I was the creative head among other things at Sama and continuously tried to push the boundaries. Over time, I learned that the end consumer was far more receptive to new design expressions in fine jewellery as against a retailer, who was far more conservative. So, I decided to branch out on my own.


Modernist-At-Heart-banner

A soft and flexible bracelet in unpolished yellow gold set with multi- sapphire rose cuts and diamonds.


Modernist-At-Heart-4

A capsule collection of clutches that Harshad designed using natural gemstone – white agate ,cabochon and pear-shaped orange chalcedony and moonstone.


Modernist-At-Heart-5

The ring features carved vegetable ivory or “tagua” bordered with diamonds, purple garnets and pink tourmaline briolettes.


What role do rare gemstones play in your life?
At H. Ajoomal one of the things we pride ourselves about is using organic material or ethically sourced natural material. It doesn’t have to be gem material, but it has to be organic. So I’ve worked with wood, meteorites, tagua (vegetable ivory) and various geodes.

I’m always on the lookout to source new gem material, and I’m in touch with cutters and rough importers. Currently, I am in love with Oregon sunstone, mint Mandarin and purple garnets and all kinds of opal, including boulder and Ethiopian. I love travelling and sourcing new material. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t use traditionally popular gemstones. I just love emeralds and tanzanite as well.

Modernist-At-Heart--22

You are an ardent follower of fashion. Very few designers in India view jewellery designing in a holistic manner and you are one of them. What inspires you, in general, to create collections based on trends?
Well, we can design whatever we want, but if it is not relevant or wearable, no one’s going to buy it. So, one has to study consumer psychographics in order to stay relevant. I don’t want my jewellery to be kept in a museum; I want it to be worn by consumers and collected by people throughout the world. Today, fashion is a leading trendsetter and various other streams get inspired by the outlook of fashion designers. For instance, architecture, interior design, art and sculpture are heavily influenced by fashion and if you understand trends, you will be able to map these influences.

My collections are not exactly based on fashion trends but are relevant to the prevailing trends. A consumer is most likely going to buy or decide her outfit for an occasion before buying or selecting her jewellery, and we see this happening in our bespoke atelier quite often. When a bride or a client comes to us they already have purchased their apparel for that occasion and we plan the bespoke jewels based on that. So over the years, my team and I understand clients’ tastes, what suits someone with a certain face and body type and what will work for the occasion.


Modernist-At-Heart-7

The pair of C clips from the Mozambique collection are studded with paved diamonds and spinels.


Modernist-At-Heart-8

These Red Carpet earrings are patterned using antique carved jade framed with tsavorites and white diamonds.


Tell us about the process of ideation. How often do you come up with collections and how long does it take you to produce a collection?
Everything starts with an idea, obviously, and then I think about it, start researching, and create a moodboard. I keep editing and modifying the moodboard. Then we start rough sketching after research and wax carving some pieces and explore options on CAD CAM till we start getting the form in place.

Only then do we start actually sketching, sampling and editing till we have a tight cohesive line in place to start manufacturing at our atelier. We have a great product development team, which is involved in all the processes and execute my thought process. I generally come up with one big collection annually and add on to existing collections through the year. I feel there is enough scope to design so why repeat the same piece often. I even do capsule collections, based on existing collections, at times for a specific market. Last year, we were invited to show at the Couture show in Vegas and I did a capsule collection of our Mozambique line, and created more earrings relevant to the US market.

From conceptualising to realising the end product, it takes about four months. If we are experimenting with new gem cuts it takes longer.

Do you design around the shape of a gemstone or do you think of a theme/ idea and then go about sourcing the relevant sizes, colour and quality?
Both actually, it depends on the situation. Sometimes seeing a gemstone at a fair or at one of my cutters is enough to generate an idea/theme and sometimes we design and then couture-cut our gem material. It all depends on what strikes me.

How often do you discard your designs?
Oh! That happens very often. Sometimes we are at the product development stage and have already designed a line, but I’m just not happy about the forms, and then I discard the line and restart from scratch.

To finalise a single design through an exhaustive process, I may do 15 to 20 rough sketches before approving one or none. My renderers sometimes get really upset but that’s how I am. If the piece doesn’t speak the language I want it to speak it gets dumped.

Designing and translating those designs – because you can be great on paper but awful in reality – is really the easiest part for me. I’ve always found it really effortless – may be because of my passion or maybe I dream design, I can’t figure.


Modernist-At-Heart-9

An antique Chinese carved wood piece is used in this talisman necklace along with cream silk mother-ofpearl and diamond pave motifs.


Modernist-At-Heart-11

There is beauty in symmetry. This attractive gold bracelet from the Gem Opaque collection is inspired by a sailboat and articulated with black onyx pipes accented with diamonds.

What is it that sets you apart from others?
I think it’s my exposure over the years through travelling and reading that I’m able to translate this into uncommon but avant-garde collectibles and wearable jewellery. I haven’t been trained in any design school so I think that works to my advantage. I’m not structured in my approach, and am open to new ideas. I also think in 3D so it’s very easy for me to imagine how 2D translates into 3D. I’ve always found it easy working with architects involved in construction or carpenters as I know how the end product will turn out. I’m also very clear about my vision – it doesn’t get clouded easily.

What are your best-selling jewellery pieces?
Earrings for sure, all shapes and lengths. My collection, Gem Opaque, set with opaque gem material has been the most successful in recent times.

Tell us about five jewellery pieces that every woman must own.
However small or large one’s budget is, one must plan to build a well-rounded unusual collection. Some pieces to collect and own are a pair of emerald earrings, a natural pearl or South Sea strand, a funky cocktail ring set with an unusual gemstone, a broad, soft bracelet cuff, and an unusually set solitaire ring with a fancyshaped diamond – not rounds please, they are too dated.

Would you please identify three or four major trends in jewellery?
We do our own trend reporting, based on various publications across streams like architecture, interior design, travel, celeb wear and fashion. Resort wear or destination jewellery is in. Be it a destination wedding or celebrating a birthday milestone, most urbanites travel to socialise. People obviously dress up differently at such trips and the jewellery has to fit as well. So, it is more fluid and colourful jewellery, almost boho chic with more emphasis on design than gold or diamond content… we have been catering to this market for a while now and I must say we are doing well in this space. Demi fine jewellery is for the younger consumer entering the market and the more fashion forward consumer, who has disposable income and wants wearable but fashionable fine jewellery. We started a pret line H.Craft a few years ago to meet this demand. Then there are many connoisseurs who are collecting jewellery as an art.

And lastly, I don’t think there has ever been this much colour being used in fine jewellery – from enamel to vibrant coloured stones, and the more unusual the gems the better.


Modernist-At-Heart-13

These Red Carpet earrings from the Les-Fleurs-Mystiques collection showcase a congregation of hand-carved white agate flowers nestled with carved gold and diamond flowers.


Modernist-At-Heart-14

A pair of ear clips in pink opal cabochons surrounded by diamonds and tsavorite garnets with diamond baguette branches inlaid on top.


You are an ocean/sea person. Where do you generally go for vacations? Tell us what keeps you busy.
I love the water and being around it. I used to swim competitively as a kid and swim regularly at the Breach Candy Club in Mumbai. I love travelling by boat to my farmhouse in Alibag, a coastal town south of Mumbai. Alibag really de-stresses me and I’m at my creative best over there. My wife and I are now growing our own organic herbs, vegetables and fruit. I’m learning sculpture and hopefully in the future want to start a sculpture studio at the farm. I like working and empowering local villagers. I have designed and crafted all my outdoor furniture with the help of locals in the village.

The ocean inspires me in many ways. I scuba-dive a couple of times a year and recently in the Maldives, I did a night dive at 50 ft with huge manta rays by my side. It was fascinating!

Besides this, I love to meditate and chant. It keeps one grounded and steady through what life throws at you. I’m not very religious and don’t really follow customs and rules or anything, I have my own beliefs, values and ethics which I try to follow on a day-to-day basis.

Sculpting is my new interest, and I want to eventually use different materials … maybe even do a series of sculpture and jewellery together.

Anything else you may wish to add?
The Indian consumer is changing fast; our society is in a transitional phase, and if jewellery designers don’t keep up with the times, the evolving consumer will move their spendable income on other luxuries.

The government and organisations in the gem trade have to focus more on design and expose Indian aesthetics to the rest of the world. Craft and quality has to be valued more.

I see myself continuously exploring further down this road, hopefully exhibiting more internationally than I’m doing now, maybe eventually selling through select galleries. Collaborating with other streams and maybe designing more than just jewellery in the future.


Modernist-At-Heart-last

A necklace composed with Mandarin garnets and Brazilian amethysts set into clear rock crystal sections with gold wire-twisted motifs and diamonds.


Sculpting is my new interest, and I want to eventually use different materials … maybe even do a series of sculpture and jewellery together.

PASSWORD RESET

four × five =

LOG IN