India has been known as a land of treasures for centuries, be it the Kohinoor diamond, the Patiala Cartier necklace or the Baroda pearls. Recently a couple of India’s Jaipur based jewellery houses like Amrapali and Gem Palace have been gaining international recognition. Now adding themselves to this list is Ishraya, a brand that is more about fun, fashionable and easy jewellery.
The costume jewellery brand has its origins in India and is very popular with Hollywood celebrities such as Freida Pinto, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow and Katy Perry. Ishraya is stocked at retailers in over 50 countries. Their stockists include department stores like London’s Harvey Nichols, Paris’ Galerie Layfette and New York’s Anthroplogie. The Mumbai-based creative director and co-founder of the brand, Gauri Burman Tandon, who belongs to one of India’s leading industrial families, prefers to keep a low-key profile.
It all started with a cocktail ring back in 2004. Gauri has always had a passion for jewellery and in collaboration with Radhika Tandon, her California based sister-in-law, decided to do something about the lack of India-inspired fashion jewellery in the market. They decided to design a stack of rings and one of their pieces caught the immediate attention of the American fashion press.
The popular website Dailycandy.com and fashion magazine Marie Claire featured these rings and soon department stores wanted more of the duo’s products. Named after their children Ishaan, Armaan and Araya, the brand Ishraya is now available in 50 countries. Gauri, based in Mumbai, looks after the creative and design side of things, while the business side is headed by Radhika.
“The brand is absolutely India-inspired. We describe it as California chic meets Bollywood Glam,” says Gauri. As modern as her designs are, you can see obvious references to artisanal Indian jewellery techniques such as filigree and polki (uncut gem setting).
But the jewellery is not “Made in India”, as Gauri feels the quality of workmanship in fashion jewellery in India does not meet international standards. But the brand, she says, is Indian in soul.
Ishraya is now a decade old and despite its international success has only been available in India for the last two years. “I did not think Indian women would appreciate high-end luxury jewellery that is doesn’t use real gems,” she says. It seems Gauri underestimated the market need, as the brand is now doing very well in India and seeing a real growth in domestic sales.
There is a sense of glamour to each of their designs, and that is probably what has made international celebrities believe in the brand. Freida Pinto first wore their “Bedouin” earrings when she appeared on the Indian celebrity talk show “Koffee with Karan”. Pinto continued to wear these earrings, after the show and they have come to be known, in retail, as the Frieda earrings. Similarly there are the Selena Gomez “Polki Mirror” hoops and Drew Barrymore “Moon Bali” earrings.
Gauri’s muse for her Ishraya’s latest collection is Hampi, a UNESCO world heritage site in the state of Karnataka. “I got the idea when I was helping my 12-year-old son with his homework. The whole Vijayanagara Empire period sounded so romantic,” she says. Though Gauri has never been to Hampi, she is donating a small percentage of the brand’s sales towards the upkeep of the heritage site.
There are four main designs all inspired by Hampi’s steeped pyramid superstructures. Cuffs, rings, necklaces, earrings are given a stain-glass effect using a French glazing technique called ‘plique-a-jour’.
Architecture is a common inspiration for Gauri as some of her previous collections have been inspired by the Louvre and the Pyramids. It seems with Ishraya, Gauri has managed to mix two of her passions – travel and jewels – into a lucrative business.