Paris capital of Haute Couture? As well! Every year Ville Lumière becomes the centre of the world for the highest of the international high-end jewellery brands. While the French brands are at home in Place Vendôme, though Bulgari and Piaget preferred Italy this summer, numerous important players arrived from distant lands too, confirming the French capital’s hegemony of style with a collective “Oui”. Standing out among England, Taiwan, Italy and the United States, was India, strong in the heritage of her knowledge of the world’s most precious gems.
Representing this heritage through a truly exceptional collection in terms of aesthetics, innovation and craftsmanship, was Nirav Modi, patron of the eponymous brand, who landed last September at the Biennale des Antiquaires fresh from opening new outlets in London and Hong Kong. Cosmopolitan, eclectic and with a passion for modern art, Nirav grew up in Antwerp, as son and grandson to experience diamantaires. After his studies in the United States he returned to India, not only to refine his gemmological competence, but perhaps called by the fascination, the mystery and the culture of his land, or even destiny that fired his desire to represent the essence of eastern and western design, technique and know-how together in his jewellery. An eclecticism that reflects in all his collections.
After coming into the spotlight in 2010 as the first Indian jeweller to boast a cover of the Christie’s – Hong Kong catalogue, a privilege only usually granted to “immortals” like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston, Nirav Modi’s work was further consecrated by Sotheby’s in the pages of Herald Tribune as the most beautiful combination of art and technical innovation. At the presentation of his new collection in one of the enchanting halls of the Ritz, Paris, he spoke to me about how being a jeweller means being constantly in search of the Beautiful. Not only in terms of aesthetics, but in respect of the purest and most uncontaminated nature of the gems.
▲ right: Luminance Necklace. A myriad of diamonds totalling over 103 carats, mounted in white gold, reflect distinctive traits of light with dazzling brilliance and luminosity. Through exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail the necklace clings supplely and sinuously to the neck like a silk scarf. The silhouette presents an intricate, three-dimensional design in which the pear-cut diamonds seem to float on a cloud of rose-cut ones.
F.1.M.: When creating your high jewellery collections, how close do you feel to your Indian heritage?
N.M. : Nirav Modi jewellery springs from the combination and merging of our Indian heritage and my European style, having been brought up in Belgium. I’m an art collector, something I love deeply, but I read a lot as well and enrich myself through the experience of travelling. My creative inspiration is continually nurtured on many different sides, through highly eclectic influences and many artistic references.
F.1.M.: Is there a figure, past or present, in the world of high jewellery who inspires you?
N.M. : If we’re talking about anyone I model myself on, I’d say no. But I am a fan of Suzanne Belperron and I love the balance of Art Déco and contemporary spirit in her work.
F.1.M.: What criterion does Nirav Modi apply in the selection of the finest stones (variables like value, rarity, market trends)?
N.M. : My absolute criterion is beauty. Above all the stone has to be beautiful. The Mogok set is a particularly fine example. It’s due to be unveiled next September, at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris. Since the day I founded my brand I have never accepted to use heat-treated or enhanced stones. The stone has to be uncontaminated in its purest beauty, just as Mother Nature created it.
▲ WaterFall Emerald Set – Over 60 carats of Colombian emeralds, among the world’s most beautiful, are the stars of this set (necklace and earrings). A breath-taking feat of jewelling skill, amazingly combined with 47 carats of beautiful diamonds. The necklace is in white gold with brilliant and rose-cut diamonds and pear-cut emeralds. The metal is virtually invisible, making it supple and extremely light.
F.1.M.: Diamonds still seem to be your favourite stones. Does this passion of yours stem somehow from your family origins, expert diamantaires for over a century?
N.M. : Yes, absolutely. I represent the third generation of my family in the diamond trade, a passion and vocation that has been passed down to me through the years. In the same way I think that diamonds are the absolute favourite stones of the female universe. Studying the various possible cuts for precious stones, we strive to reach the perfection of beauty and asymmetrical balance. Let me explain, if you look closely at the “Jasmine cut”, one of the four cuts I patented myself, you can see that the petals all have different sizes.
At Nirav Modi we conceive creation as asymmetric but always perfectly and harmonically balanced.
F.1.M.: The Endless cut is one of the four cuts you have patented over recent years. In the beginning it was exclusively for rings. Have there been developments in this area?
N.M. : The Endless cut is a very particular kind of cut, during which we lose almost 85% of the stone. For some that sounds crazy, but as I was saying we cut for pure beauty to exalt the stone and its purest nature. It’s a very well-loved cut we’ve recently been using not just for rings, but for circular, hoop earrings as well.
F.1.M.: About the precious metals Nirav Modi uses for settings, do you have any particular preference?
N.M. : Rose gold, white gold, very rarely titanium. I think platinum is too heavy for some kinds of jewellery. It is never a question of price. It’s that what we do in white gold, we just can’t with platinum, although it is perfect for wedding rings.
▲ left: Emerald Carpet Bracelet – The bracelet celebrates the perfect shades of intense green found only in the rarest Colombian emeralds (octagon cut) skilfully selected and mounted in perfect harmony with the emerald cut diamonds. Hundreds of tiny natural pearls and round cut emeralds form the backdrop to the major stones, woven like the knots of a precious carpet. / ▲ right: Jasmine necklace – The Jasmine cut (pear-shaped) diamonds in the necklace form elegant petals around the stamens of briolette diamonds, diffusing delicate sparkles. The exclusive Jasmine cut® exalts the diamonds enhancing the light and character of each individual stone, whereas the setting gives the diamonds an ethereal, floating appearance. Symmetrically structured for a well-balanced silhouette, the diamonds transmit dynamism and movement.
F.1.M.: In your experience, what do consider the perfect balance of intrinsic value in a gem and creative craftsmanship?
N.M. : It has to be a perfect combination. The result has to achieve beauty, but at the same time the value of the stone (whether it be a ruby, emerald or diamond) cannot be lost. Everything Maison Nirav Modi creates is aimed at achieving the result of excellence. For example, for the “Electric Green” ring I chose a very rare stone, the kornerupine, from Tanzania, which precisely for its origins has a highly particular composition that gives it such a live shade of green, much sought after by collectors. The stone has not been treated in any way to enhance its already exceptional qualities. It’s simply nature, and so the high refractive index of the stone that gives it such brilliance and colour. I love it because that special “neon” shade of green reminds me of Superman’s kryptonite in the old films from the ‘eighties. Something truly unique!
F.1.M.: In your experience do you feel that high jewellery can still be an investment asset? Recently we’ve seen that some large diamonds (around 100 carat), flawless and perfectly colourless, have proved fairly hard to sell…
N.M. : We shouldn’t look too much at the current moment and base our assessments only on that. That would be a mistake. If those diamonds are proving hard to sell on the market today, next year it’ll be easier! In a general sense, beautiful jewellery appreciates over time, and is the only luxury segment able to stand the tests of time. Let me give you an example. If you buy a famous brand of shoes and use them, in two years you’ve worn them out. The same thing goes for cars: as soon as you drive it out of the dealer you’ve already lost 25% of its value. That is not the case for jewellery. Nothing is as bright and eternal as a diamond.
▲ left: Soleil Ring – The ring mounts an extraordinary pear-cut 20.87 carat Fancy Yellow diamond, certified by the GIA, extremely rare for its perfect symmetry and absence of fluorescence, surrounded by pink and white diamonds. / ▲ center: Electric Green Ring – With diamonds (the brilliant cuts are mounted upside-down), green kornerupine *, emeralds. / ▲ right: Flamingo Embrace Bangle Pink sapphire and diamond bangle made “elastic” by a mechanism patented by the Indian brand, which adapts to any wrist
F.1.M.: Nirav Modi is a completed self-contained, dynamic, contemporary jeweller in continual expansion with boutiques in Delhi, Mumbai, Hong Kong, New York, Macao, London and Beijing. Have you ever found differences between your Asian and you western clients?
N.M. : You’re Italian, so you know that big brands like Armani, Gucci and Valentino are as well-known in Milan as they are in New York. It’s the same with jewellery. Sure, sometimes it happens you find preferences, for example the “Jasmine cut” is very popular in Hong Kong, while in New York they seem to prefer our “Embrace”. Nirav Modi is an international brand, so we just create the same jewellery for everyone. In 2019 we’ll be expanding in Europe, too, opening a boutique in Paris.
* For your curiosity, kornerupine is a boro-silicate, hardness of 6.5/7, which rarely is given a live green colour due to the presence of vanadium. The stone chosen by Nirav Modi keeps it vivacious green colour even in the twilight.