As you may already know, most of our products are entirely handmade. In an age when mechanization and electronics rule the world, it is comforting to think that some things are still made by skilled craftsmen (and women) in the same way they have been for hundreds of years.
When I first traveled to India in 1996, I met a young man called Nitin. He worked in his uncle's silver shop, and we got along quite well. His English was not very good, but it was (and still is) better than my Hindi. Nitin was ambitious and bright, with lots of great ideas.
After a couple of years, Nitin left his uncle's business to forge out on his own. He called me in the US, and we arranged to meet on my next trip to Jaipur. During our meeting, he was nervous and excited. He had the same energy and vision, and his silver products were nicely made and priced very well.
We started to do business on a regular basis. His quality continued to improve, the variety of things on offer grew, and he continued to come up with exciting new concepts. Best yet, when I would approach him with a new design, he was always eager to make the idea a reality.
When I approached him about setting stamps and vintage reproductions in silver, he took things a step further than my original picture in a frame. He added a design to the frame itself, and came up with the idea to dangle a semiprecious bead below the pendant.
A few years ago, Nitin and I partnered up to exhibit at the Tucson Gem Show. At that show, he identified a need for loose stones that could be set in silver. They were difficult to source, and it was hard to find calibrated stones at a good price. Upon his return to India, he set up a stone workshop and began doing his own stone cutting and polishing.
These days, he earns a substantial portion of his revenues by buying rough stone in Tucson from far-flung corners of the world, shipping it back to India for processing, then selling the stones to customers either as finished jewelry or to be set in silver elsewhere.
Nitin is a real success story. He is now married and has a feisty four year old son, "Kishu." Nitin's company employs more than 50 workers in all the various stages of jewelry production, from design to stone cutting, to silversmithing. He has customers in Thailand, Japan, the US, Australia and Europe.
The upshot of all this is two-fold. First, that there is still a place in this world for quality handmade products made by talented artisans. Second, that the dollars we spend on these products have a real impact on real people.
Because of our appreciation for handmade objets d'art, people like Nitin and his crew of craftspeople are able to raise themselves up beyond their normal station in life.