Leading Chennai-headquartered daily newspaper The Hindu recently featured Seema Mehta, who is the Creative Director of Kirtilal Kalidas Jewellers Pvt. Ltd. Seema is the daughter of Purnima and Kaushik K Mehta and granddaughter of Kirtilal Kalidas Mehta founder of Kirtilals.
We reproduce the article for the benefit of our members.
In conversation: diamonds over dinner
Seema Mehta, of the Kirtilals family, uses her passion for art to create stunning jewellery.
An unlikely partnership between fashion designer Rohit Bal and iconic jewellery business Kirtilals led to the creation of a jewellery line so exquisite that it is still spoken about. The Lotus Collection is a nature-inspired line that is handcrafted using diamonds, coloured gems, rare coloured diamonds, Italian Corals and Conch Pearls. Spearheading this collaboration was Seema Mehta, granddaughter of Kirtilal Kalidas Mehta, the founder of Kirtilals and the Creative Director of Kirtilal Kalidas Jewellers Pvt. Ltd.
Mehta walks the line between the traditional and the contemporary, a reflection of her East meets West upbringing and design aesthetics influenced by her lineage and a western arts education. Her contribution to the business is this fusion that is helping a traditional gold and diamonds business evolve with the times and its customers.
“I did not want to work in our family business. I wanted to be a painter,” says Mehta, a fourth generation entrant to the Kirtilals jewellery empire. But growing up in a family with grandfather, father, uncles — pretty much everybody discussing diamonds over dinner — she couldn’t help but navigate towards the call of her lineage.
For Mumbai-born Mehta, joining the jewellery business was not a given but a natural progression. “As a family, we’re always taking about work all the time. Our dinner table conversations often revolved around diamonds and jewellery. I even have to force myself not to look at my phone while at home,” confesses Mehta.
Even holidays weren’t completely without work-related stuff. “Growing up in Belgium, we would often go to Paris for the long weekends and we wouldn’t miss walking around La Place Vendome, where some of the world’s most gorgeous jewellery is out on display with dramatically dressed windows. I have always had a love affair with the creativity behind the French jewellery brands.”
With four generations involved in the business, friction is not new. “There are differences of opinion, but isn’t that true of any team?” asks Mehta. “This hasn’t being a concern or an obstacle as such. There are always different ideas, but we respect each other’s opinions and perspectives. The younger generation obviously has a different pace and vision for our business. But that said, I am quite blessed because our previous generation was well ahead of their times. They are open-minded and willing to accepting of the changes that we are bringing in.”
The Fine art graduate from Academy of Art College in San Francisco, California, infused her passion for art and creativity to bring in a deeper authenticity in design. “I am working on bringing back the old-world beauty by creating some stunning pieces inspired by our old Indian masterpieces of the Maharajas private collection. We are also working with Italian designers to bring a whole different range of colours to our design palette. A few years ago, I worked with Rohit Bal and our collaboration helped us create sculptural pieces of art, which I don’t think had ever been made in jewellery before.”
To see more people wearing jewellery by making it more accessible is her personal vision for 74-year-old brand. “India has a beautiful heritage of jewellery and I don’t want to see it die down.”
Mehta also has managed to make a name for herself outside the realm of her business. A Kathak dancer trained under Guru Chitresh Das, she founded the Chhandam School of Kathak in Mumbai through which she hopes to preserve and promote the classical art form. “It has been a great journey so far, watching students grow with the teaching that our ancient culture has to offer. I would like to see some big transformations happen with the economics of dance and watch more artists and dance schools be more self sustained and valued.”
With an intense passion divided between the visual and the performing art, Mehta balances the act quite naturally.
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