Bollywood and Maharajas…..thoughts of India conjure up exotic images of far-off lands, cultures and sights. The source of such famous diamonds as the Hope and the Koh-i-Noor, India attracted the famous gemstone dealer, Jean Baptist Tavernier during the 1700 century in search of these fabulous gems to satisfy the desires of French royalty. An intriguing country indeed. So when I heard the International Colored Stone Association was holding their 17th Congress in Jaipur October20th through 24th, 2017, I decided this was an event that I could not miss. Although an avid traveller, the thought of expensing another big trip so soon after completing a recent trip to Sri Lanka came with a little apprehension. The apprehension soon passed and was replaced with excitement when I spotted a seat sale to Jaipur for less than CAD$700! It was time to pack my bags once again.
It was interesting to note that each line of production was uniquely tailored and produced from start to finish for each of the firm’s clients. This process allowed for better quality control and flexibility in satisfying their client’s individual needs.
The I.C.A. holds their biennial congress venue in select locations around the world. The last setting took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka and former settings include Changsha, China and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Welcoming all gem enthusiasts, the congress attracts a wide variety of gem and jewellery industry professionals from around the world. Invited speakers to the Jaipur Congress included such industry leaders as Andrew Cody of Cody Opal, Australia, Andy Lucas, Field Gemology, G.I.A., and Vincent Pardieu, Consulting Field Gemologist at VP Consulting SPC. The speakers covered many industry topics including new gemstone discoveries and mining issues, new sources of gemstone in Madagascar, as well as jewellery marketing in the age of digital E-commerce. Also held were blogging panel discussions, joined by popular Instagrammers Benjamin Guttery, @thirdcoastgems and Katerina Perez, @katarina_perez.
Technical gemological aspects were presented by Dr. Laurent E Cartier of, SSEF and Dr.Daniel Nyfeler of Gubelin, among other notable representatives of major laboratories.
An exposition of Jaipur dealers and ICA Poster Competition rounded out the daily events.
Credit must be given to the organizers of the congress; the ICA members of India for putting on four full days of events where delegates were able to enjoy speaker sessions, social events, factory tours and more. Jaipur is known as The Pink City for it was painted pink, the colour of hospitality, to welcome the 1876 visit of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. The 2017 ICA Congress was held at the opulent Fairmont Jaipur Hotel, which was built in a style to emulate the traditional Indian architecture and charm.
Arriving Thursday afternoon in Jaipur from Vancouver, I was fortunate to be there for the “Diwali” festival; the Indian Celebration of Light. The congress had organized an open air dinner party that night at the 1800 century Nahargarh Fort, located high upon the local mountain range. The view from the fort of the city below, alight with fireworks of every kind was a thrilling sight.
The next day, prior to registration, I decided to hire a guide and tour the city. Transportation is varied in India, as is exhibited in this photo from my taxi window. From motorcycle to elephant, the one constant is traffic, and lots of it. Somehow the system works, however at times one can only hold on and hope that you make it to the next stop. With the traffic behind us, my driver dropped me off at the famous 16th century Amer Fort, a massive complex built in red sandstone declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
Before returning to the Fairmont we stopped for a visit at one of the local jewellers. The manager invited me upstairs to their workshop where I witnessed the goldsmiths and setters ply their work. Surprisingly, in contrast to western style goldsmith shops the workers here sat cross legged on the floor. Although tempted to buy one of their creations I managed to put it off for another day.
From here we drove to a local renowned hand block stamping outlet. These intricately carved wood blocks are used to dye a beautiful diversity of fabrics. With some fine prints in hand, my shopping time was over and my driver happy.
Saturday was a day of golf and cricket for many avid congress delegates. However not being proficient at either, I decided to further my exploration of the area. I started my day with a visit to the city of Khania-Balaji, 10km from Jaipur and the location of the Monkey Temple, Galta Ji. This Hindu Temple is known for its resident colony of macaque monkeys, featured in National Geographic Channel’s “Rebel Monkeys”. Devout pilgrims travel to the temple to bathe in the two naturally fed pools. The temple instilled a very spiritual feeling and allowed me some beautiful photo opportunities.
On returning to Jaipur, my afternoon was spent at the City Palace. Built in 1729, the palace was the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur and to this day holds a residence for the royal family. The palace includes an interesting museum and was also later the site of the Congress gala dinner.
Following the commencement ceremonies Saturday evening, the delegates attended three full days of presentations by the industry speakers. The wide variety of topics covered had relevance for all.
Our Monday night, Gala dinner was held at the Jaipur City Palace. We were greeted with tossed rose petals, traditional Indian dance and music. Encouraged to take part, we were invited to wear Indian attire and were offered head wrapping in traditional turban style. The guests were a site to behold!
With Tuesday being the last day of speaker events the organizing committee had one more event planned for the delegates; a visit to the factory of one of event’s major sponsors, RMC Gems India Ltd., located in the special gem and jewellery trade zone in Jaipur. RMC, one of Jaipur’s largest manufacturers, employs over 700 people who are engaged in a wide range of manufactured processes. The tour included a visit to the gem cutting facilities where we observed preforming and custom cutting, as well as mass production facilities used to produce multiple finished stones at once.
The tour then led us through the jewellery manufacturing facilities. The processes that we witnessed included wax model production, casting, and finishing. It was interesting to note that each line of production was uniquely tailored and produced from start to finish for each of the firm’s clients. This process allowed for better quality control and flexibility in satisfying their client’s individual needs. The ability of RMC to react to and accommodate such diverse client needs is certainly a credit to their success.
The end of the tour brought the congress to a close and my long journey back to Canada was about to begin. With twenty five hour traveling time ahead of me I was happy to reflect on what I had learned from the event and most of all the great new relationships that I had developed.