The Story of Jaipur & its Jewels
Our excitement was short-lived when we arrived at our ‘Royal Palace’ hotel, which was booked online.
After the initial admiration of the colourfully painted doors and ceilings, narrow passages and staircases leading nowhere the charm started fading in the sweet unmistakable fumes of hashish. Men and women were stumbling in and out of bedrooms in various degrees of undress. We aren’t exactly prudish, but when the bed sheets looked somewhat stained we decided to lose our first night’s payment and find another hotel. Feeling somewhat traumatised, we decided to blow the budget and booked into the sumptuous Jai Mahal Palace, not quite the palace of the Maharajah of Jaipur, but the rather lavish residence of his prime minster built in 1745. After a swim, watched by strutting peacocks in a beautiful garden, we were ready to venture out into one of the first planned cities in India, built by the Maharaja Jai Sing in 1727. He brought artisans and jewellers from Delhi, Agra and Benares to create a market and cutting centre called Johari Bazaar. (Gems market) Three centuries on and this is the still one of the world’s busiest centres where precious and semi precious stones are cut and set.
The city centre was chaotic and if it weren’t for the guide, sent by our manufacturer, to help us find his workshop, we would have been lost. We were like kids in a candy store. Earthenware bowls were filled with cut and uncut stones in a myriad of different colours, one more beautiful than the other. After a tour of the premises we sat down to business. He showed us the first sample and I could audibly hear my sister’s heart rejoicing. She had found her kindred jewellery spirit. They were on the same page and I must say, the pieces were stunning.
After days of designing, inspecting stones and agreeing on prices, we were finally able to have some leisure time.
An elephant ride to Amber Fort, built on a hill overlooking Jaipur and the Maota lake was rather fun. The Fort, built for the Rajput rulers and their families, was built in red sandstone and marble. The Sheesh Mahal( Hall of mirrors) was our favourite room. Ingenious design of mirror work, which felt like being in the midst of a starburst.
We marvelled at the sight from the top of the hill where one could see the reason Jaipur is called the pink city. All the buildings are painted a terracotta pink. This a a law dating back to1876 and thanks to the wife of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II. He had it painted for Queen Victoria and Albert’s visit, but his wife loved the colours so much that she insisted he make it illegal to paint a building any other shade.
Then a visit to the famous Gem palace. Jewellers since the 1700’s to Royals and modern day royals like Queen Elizabeth, Jackie Kennedy and the Mir of Qatar. I had met the owner years previously and he indulged us by showing us extraordinary custom pieces in production for clients.
We ended our day with a dinner fit for a couple of princesses at the Maharaja’s former residence, the Rambagh Palace. It was an opulent feast in every way.
We are so fortunate to work out of such an exciting city and can’t wait to go back soon.