Kolkata, Nov.26 : Kolkata's jewellers are all smiles despite the global slowdown being suffered by markets across the world. The goldsmiths here didn't shift to machine-made jewellery but adhered to their handmade process.
This decision, which was once believed as the main reason for their backwardness by several people, is today reaping them rich dividends.
When the US market was booming, jewellers in other parts of India and the world started mass production of low-carat gold jewellery, which was the craze in the United States. But now with the recession in the US there are no takers for that.
According to Pankaj Parekh, Chairman of the Gem and jewellery Export Promotion Council, Easter Region, Kolkata jewellers stuck to the exquisitely designed and exclusive handmade jewellery, which has a huge market not just in India but also in Gulf countries.
Parekh said: "The machine-made jewellery is mostly in 9, 12, 14 carat or 18 carat gold - preferred in the U.S., U.K, and European countries. But handmade ornaments are always in 22 carat or 24 carat, which is a major requirement of customers in India and in the Middle East."
Nirmal Bera, one goldsmith, said: "Hand made jewellery takes time, as it is a delicate job and the time is consumed in the designs .The handmade jewellery looks better than the machine-made, moreover, the purity of the gold is maintained in hand-made jewellery, which is not found in machine-made. The handmade jewellery lasts longer than the machine made jewellery and also the machine made jewellery does not have much variety of design where as the hand made jewellery can have various design."
Kolkata jewellers export to Dubai mostly, which acts as the hub for the entire middle- east.
According to Ketan Doshi, an exporter, the customers in the Gulf countries prefer the hand made jewellery also because no two (jewellery) pieces are the same.
"All machine-made jewellery look the same with thousands of replica of the same design. But in hand-made jewllery, no two pieces are alike. It is impossible to replicate. Also, such exquisite, delicate and fine work can be done by hand that no machine can ever produce," Ketan Doshi stated.
As per the gold connoisseurs or regular buyers like Neha Bagchi or Vaishali Khaitan, they wouldn't touch machine made jewellery with a barge pole. The fear in wearing machine-made jewellery is that you might walk into a party and find another woman wearing the same thing. There can't be a bigger fashion disaster than that. In India, we watch the jewellery more closely than the clothes. I would always opt for exclusive hand made ornaments, says Vaishali, a customer.
In handmade jewellery, the design options are thousand times more and customized jewellery can also be made using old ornaments or even with new gold, adds Bagchi.
With destinations in Southeast Asia and West Asia, there is no dearth of takers for city's gold ornaments. Last year, total exports from Kolkata were worth Rs. 2,000 crore and this year, till October, there has already been a positive growth of 6 per cent, according to Parekh, who expects it to touch at least 15 per cent by the end of the financial year.
However, those jewellers who did export to the US admit that exports to the States were down by 50 per cent.
Some jewellers in Kolkata were actually on the verge of switching to machine-made jewellery when the global meltdown set in. Today, they are thanking their lucky stars that they had not rushed and switched to machine made jewellery. By Ajitha Menon