YASH AGARWAL, creative director of Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas Jewellers, is a method designer. Disciplined and orderly, Agarwal loves to dig deep into the subject that catches his fancy. He takes his own sweet time to prepare, but once he gets started, there is no stopping him. His imperial jewels that capture the soul of Rajasthan, bring to mind the grand and enchanting era when kings, queens and nobility ruled the region. The daring use of colour and atypical forms makes the collections simply majestic and tickle your ‘sensorial taste buds’!
Agarwal equates jewellery designing to creating a gourmet dish. Like a master chef, this enormously talented artist believes that the right amount of marinating in the form of research and hard work is important for the dish to turn out perfect. The preparation time includes sketching and deciding on the quantity and type of ingredients such as coloured gemstones, diamonds and metals used to create it. Flavoured with the labour of love, Agarwal has the knack of producing appetising jewels where each and every item is a piece de resistance. He speaks with SHANOO BIJLANI about his formative years and his creative journey in the glittering world of jewellery and gems.
Yash Agarwal is one of the emerging stars of the Indian jewellery design scene, and his artistic pieces are scrumptious, dripping with diamonds and gems. His father, Dr. Nawal Agarwal, earned a doctorate in zoology, but changed the course of his life to start the now-famous jewellery showroom Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas Jewellers in Jaipur. Unlike his father, Yash Agarwal thankfully didn’t have to go through a circuitous route to realise where his passion lay. He was always inclined towards creative pursuits and knew his mind even as a youngster. He recognised his calling early on: “I was sure that I would enter a creative field,” he says now. “But back then, I couldn’t figure which one.”
The obvious choice that lay before him was the field of jewellery. Jewellery was embedded in Yash Agarwal’s DNA. “I was inclined towards jewellery from childhood. When I was six years old, I remember spending most of my vacation time managing the silver counter at our showroom, especially on festivals like Diwali.”
A student of Bhavan Vidyashram in Jaipur, Agarwal picked up a degree in Commerce from Sydenham College, Mumbai. In the meantime, life played a pleasant trick and a wrong turn proved right for him. “After my graduation, my father enrolled me for a gemological course at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), Carlsbad, but I was mistakenly signed up for the designing course. I decided to give it a try and attend a month’s session. During that time it struck me that this is what I had wanted to do all my life!” Agarwal is a GIA-trained graduate gemmologist and a designer and has got formal training in manufacturing, gemstone identification and diamond grading.
Ideas Coupled With Research
He believes that a jewellery piece is like a delicious dish which requires a perfect mix of various ingredients along with a pair of skilled hands.
The design comes to life only after mixing various elements to achieve the finesse. The first thing required to make a design is the inspiration. From dust to gold, everything inspires him. “Nature, culture, architecture, and everything that surrounds me, touches my heart at different levels. With each collection, comes a different theme,” notes Agarwal. “However, I research the subject first, and then derive the essence of what I should make. Sketching, designing and deciding on what gems I should use then follows,” states Agarwal. These inspirations eventually take the shape of beautiful designs which are meticulously carved by highly skilled craftsmen.
Never one to repeat a theme, Agarwal, in the recent past, has come up with four tempting fares namely, Hunar, Aranya, Adrashya and Amer. They speak a different language, instantly drawing you in as they are patterned with colourful gemstones.
So, how much time does he spend on researching a subject? “It depends,” he avers. “For the Amer collection, it took me an entire year to study the fort and the various possibilities of translating its aspects into jewellery. I covered the length and breadth of Rajasthan to study the architecture of forts, I visited old havelis, checked out murals, various other crafts in order to sink my teeth into the subject.”
The Amer fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a beautiful example of the Indo-Saracenic architecture, which has a perfect blend of Colonial, Mughal and Rajput elements, explains Agarwal. “Amer is really close to my heart as it reflects the true essence of Rajasthan’s rich architecture. Also, the Amer collection is probably one of the first to have taken its inspiration from the architecture of forts and palaces in the literal sense.”
In creating wearable pieces of jewellery based on grand architecture,
did he face any hurdles? “The biggest challenge that came my way was to represent the motifs in an architectural form. Scaling it to perfect, wearable size and yet have an appealing shape was very important. The fort was, say, 70-feet high, and if the 7-inch long bracelet had to depict the fort’s form, I had to proportionately scale down the version without compromising on the splendour of the fort and ensuring that I incorporated every detail into it. At the same time, I had to make the piece look opulent,” Agarwal notes.
The Amer collection is Agarwal’s magnificent tribute to the only yellow monument in the pink city. Agarwal lives and breathes the subject till he becomes part of it. For the Aranya (forest) collection, he stayed at many jungle resorts like Ranthambore, Sariska and Pench, where he even attended a wildlife photography event. At that time, he was endearingly called the ‘jungle boy’ by his friends and family. He soaks in the subject till such time that the thin boundary between the artist and the subject become one in order to produce an elegant piece of work. The Aranya collection presents stylised, miniature versions of animals amidst dense foliage – all expressed in gemstones and gold.
The pencil-and-sketch artist doesn’t believe in working on the computer. Once the theme is decided upon, research begins in earnest. After that the ‘ideating meter’ starts ticking in his brain. He draws sketches and renders them with colours. “I choose the materials appropriate for the collection that I want to make. Sometimes, I get gemstones specially cut for a particular collection, and at other times, I select the gems first and then work on the jewellery line.”
Agarwal works with precious stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and more, but adds, “My favourites keep changing with time as designing is all about perception. Currently, I am obsessed with rose gold, rubies and pink diamonds.”
He has a list of niche clientele, including many from royal families, who love the sumptuous spread of his signature jewels filled with rich colours; jewels that are modern-day but connect you to the past. For a designer who makes majestic jewellery lines, Agarwal is unpretentious and enjoys the simple pleasures of life. In his spare time, if he gets any, he prefers to be with his family and friends or he unwinds by watching television. On most days, though, he is busy creating pieces that burst with colour and life, that offer sensorial gratification.