Collecting jewellery is not for the faint hearted!
It requires a fair amount of knowledge in history, evolution and social changes are that reflected in changing trends; and perhaps, a fair amount of Hollywood, or Bollywood influence. You must immerse yourself in reading Vogue, Elle and the A to Z of fashion. And with Internet accessible everywhere, just Google and get lost into the fascinating world of jewellery collection.
If you wish to buy heritage pieces, do so from reputed houses which will provide certificates, but make sure that their certificates matter when it comes to establishing provenance. Keep the certificate; for without it your signature possession may become just another product found at any tom-dick-harry jewellery store in Dhaka.
If you are planning to purchase the finest specimen of jewellery — gold, silver, or otherwise, know this: they could easily be knock-offs of earlier designs, or simply imitations. Buy knock-offs, but buy them for what they are, and with the full understanding that you can derive little from them — just looking chic one day... which can be a strong incentive to immerse in collecting!
Bengali women are known for their love for gold, and that affair remains as strong as ever. Needless to say, even the most daredevil of a girl chooses to play it safe here. When it comes to weddings, no matter how much of a fashion renegade the bride-to-be is, she still prefers gold; maybe a base that can further highlight the gems, diamonds, or semi-precious stones the gold adheres to.
So what has changed? Well, traditions!
Even in the late nineties, the jewellery business would have been hot in the Baishakhi summer, sweltering in the winter wedding season — not to mention religious festivities like Eid, Puja, Christmas, and Buddha Purnima.
The so-called 'days' take precedence now. Valentine's to Mother's, to Father's. The traditional celebrations have been augmented further with newer additions. But the market remains solid for the wedding alone.
Bangladesh can still pride itself for the abundance of elaborate wedding traditions. There are no limits to myriad events, pre-and-post weddings. What was once a modest family affairs have now been blown out of proportion with pointless grandiosity. And this is one area where the bride, or any future-bride-to be has some freedom to toy around.
Gold to silver, antiques to semi-precious, chunky brass, or subtle sea-shell chains!
The whole nine yards? Hardly.
The appeal of pearls, and their perfect pairing with gold, white or yellow, can resemble a star in sparkling radiance. Dhaka was a major hub in the modern pearl trade. Just like diamonds, pearls, if I may say — are at par when it comes to panache, even to Kashmir blues.
Simply because pearls have a bond with us; the attachment to diamonds is one that is imposed and not instinctive.
But if diamonds are truly your best friend, then stick to it.
Although shying from a long history lesson, one cannot reiterate the boundless source of pleasure from collecting, or reading up on collectibles can be. What is dull affair to the layman is what all jewellery collectors must master; even before their first major purchase.
There is a chance that the wedding bells are about to toll for you this year. This just may well be the right time to create a jewellery ensemble at the excuse of 'nothing to accessorise with' motto.
Weddings are also traditionally occasions when vintage, family pieces would be handed down as heirlooms. No matter how out of fashion they appear, let them be.
There is nothing new under the sun, and this dictum is more relevant to jewellery than any other.
If you do wish to go the extra mile, and is lucky enough to have deep pockets to actually buy signature pieces, please be reminded of simple do-s and the don't-s.
When it comes to heritage pieces, make sure you know exactly what you want from it — are you planning to turn it into an everyday wear; something set aside for those special evenings? That too creates a dilemma — can I wear the same piece to a cocktail, and also a wedding?
Yes, and no!
Depending completely on your taste, selection, and astute fashion judgment, the jewellery can make or break your desired look for the evening. That proverbial 'perfect look' should never dictate your collection. Your penchant for ethnic Nepalese jewellery, or contrasting fine 'meenakari' may lead you to have less of this and more of that. But to a collector, balance is key.
Go for pieces that are versatile. Go for what you can afford.
Lifestyle is also a key consideration. If you wear an everyday ring, make sure that it is not studded with precious stones; but you may choose to wear a beautiful diamond solitaire, or a small gold chain and pendant at work.
Unless you are lucky enough to build upon a legacy left behind by your predecessors, a jewellery collector must start from scratch.
The first great idea would be to set aside a monthly budget, be it a meagre or princely sum — irrelevant!
Setting aside a fixed amount of money is not.
There will be dry months where you will not be able to make any purchases, which you should roll onto the second, and so forth. In so doing, once you get hold of an attractive piece, you will have the financial backing to pick it.
“Buy the best of what you can afford,” has always been every collector's mantra.
Make sure you are aware of global trends, and follow stores and auction houses that deal in jewellery. Social media is a boon, not to look for key pieces, but certainly to understand trends. Knowledge of history, as said earlier, is important. Knowledge in metallurgy too can come in handy.
Once you become the keeper of the treasured gold handed down over three or four generations, avoid the temptation to turn them into bullion, and reset into modern designs. Your collection will evolve with your changing taste. Maybe you have a penchant for rose gold; appreciating gold-India vermillion amalgam may seem timeless to you tomorrow. One of the most important thing to consider is that the finest artisans are now long dead, and their 'sons' now more keen on factory productions. The classics are gone, but what is en vogue now, are heritage pieces of the future.
One thing that must be reiterated, evolve as a collector! No matter which fashion phase you are now going through — grace, panache, flirty, or just bad attitude…pick jewellery that appeals to you, preserve them, and a decade later, your box may just become a miniature right out of the 'Victoria and Albert'!
Gold has long been considered assets, but with changing times, more and more people are looking for more unorthodox modes of investments — paintings to stamps, to coins. Forgo the idea of turning jewellery into treasured gold; collect what you like, and what you can afford…and always the best possible pieces at that price!
Buy a neat 'polki' necklace, or a three-string south sea pearl. A simple terracotta earring or a sea-shell/wooden trinket of the tribal communities… and you are a collector! The next step would be to keep a note, along with every piece that you have bought — St Martin to Timbuktu, to Cartier.
Every collection needs to tell a story, and it does not hurt if they come with additional captions.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Wardrobe: RIMA NAZ
Blouse: Jahin Khan
Make-up: Farzana Shakil’s Makeover Salon
Styling: Sonia Yeasmin Isha
Location: Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Dhaka