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September 18, 2010

Rocks By Rose

Text by Shirin Mehta. Photographs by Ankur Chaturvedi

Sheetal and Biren Vaidya of Rose, the luxury jewellery salon in Mumbai and Delhi, relate a story of love, inspiration and breathtaking creations to Verve. For as Biren states, “Rose signifies beauty, power, rarity, fragrance and romance!”

A rose by any other name is as – glittering, fabulous, exclusive? Let me start at the very end. Of the Verve shoot, that is. That defining moment when Sheetal Vaidya walked out of her bedroom. Hung around her neck was a colossal emerald, the size of a tear-shaped rock. She remained uncaring about the sighs all around. She looked like a goddess and she knew it. Sheetal has been wearing her husband Biren’s jewellery since she was married 21 years ago and has perhaps gotten used to the glances and asides. She wore that rock like she was born to it.

Sheetal and Biren Vaidya of Rose, makers of fine jewellery, are in their Breach Candy home. He wears a striped blue and white shirt of no great import except for the touches of fine jewellery. A bee sits in the centre, its wings sparkling diamonds. It seems to be flying towards a diamond flower set safely on Biren’s pocket. Biren has a story to tell about the ‘humble bee’. The humble bee returns to the flower as long as the flower supplies it with nectar and pollen. When it stops, the humble bee, he says, will drift from flower to flower. His piece of jewellery certainly proves to be a great conversation opener. I wonder if he is the humble bee and decide that indeed he is, when I realise that Biren to all his friends is Bee Vee, a pet name that has stuck over the years and become almost an official tag!

Bee Vee and Sheetal met through his best friend in college who happened to be Sheetal’s sister. “The first time I saw Sheetal, I was 19, she was 17 – I knew that this was the girl I loved and wanted to marry.” He pursued her and soon they were married. She joined the jewellery business that her husband was already into and became his muse. And Rose’s sales director. “It’s been a very special journey with him,” Sheetal says of her life with Biren, a romantic to the core. And today, she is the face of Rose, smiling her wistful Mona Lisa smile, bedecked with her husband’s creations. The brand ambassador says, “I am a very shy person. He took a picture from a family portrait and put it in a Rose ad and presented it to me, just like that. It was a very special birthday at the Leela Palace Udaipur and I was given the magazine with my birthday gift. I was so embarrassed.”

Birthdays, like the breakfast in Udaipur, are very special occasions for Sheetal, with Biren working hard to outdo his own last effort. There was the wonderful surprise weekend in Delhi. Then, another time, he booked the whole of Moshe’s restaurant in Mumbai and ordered a very special, romantic 7-course meal, just the two of them, in lone splendour. On her 40th birthday, he filled the house with 40 exquisite desserts, a musical band, a myriad candles and all her friends. “He has always made me feel very special, all these years,” she says, now. “Especially on Valentine’s Day, the day we first started going out.”

Biren comes from a family of doctors who expected him to become one too. His sister Purnima Sheth and brother-in-law had already started a jewellery business and left him in charge of taking messages while they went off on a world tour after they made their first million. “I was supposed to be the caretaker for 45 days.One customer insisted that I take orders and design for her daughter’s wedding and I did so. I managed to do 85 per cent of the business that they normally do and it was really fun. I loved it. I even sold cheap broken diamonds to my college friends to present to their love interests. I discovered a passion for jewellery.”

Wanting to learn the business from the grassroots, Biren started in a ‘sweatshop’ in Zaveri Bazaar, working under a ‘very fine artisan’ learning diamond sorting and setting. “I was sitting in Zaveri Bazaar in a lungi, actually making jewellery. I thought that if I am going into jewellery, I have to learn how to make it.” After this, he started selling small pieces of jewellery door to door, at kitty parties and in people’s homes. He would repair old jewellery and did such a great job that he began to get new orders. “My sister is like my godmother even today,” he says, of his partner in business and “we built Rose from three to 300.”

I take the ‘Rose walk’ through the luxurious Rose salon on Mumbai’s Breach Candy. The room has plush carpets, the temperature is set just right; there is a pervading aroma of green tea and spices. I am walked past the cases of jewelled Ganeshas crafted by Biren, hand-picked ceramics, silver artifacts and of course the stunning pieces of jewellery as well as some jadau sets. One section displays high-end watches. Everything, in fact, for a society shaadi. A haven indeed for the bride and groom on a shopping day out.

He is proud about his designs and declares that designing is his big passion. Sheetal says that he loves to sketch at their home in Alibaug where things are quiet and peaceful. She is still stunned by some of his three-dimensional sketches. “He will look at a person, see the personality and start sketching jewellery,” she says. He is inspired by all of nature – trees, plants, flowers, the sea,  “….by places, destinations, fabrics, art, architecture, embroidery. I don’t call myself a designer because everything that everyone makes goes back to His creation. I prefer to call myself an ‘aspiring impressionist’.

The ‘My trousseau, my collection’ pieces incorporate fancy gems in free flexible movements. A new line of bracelets is inspired by traditional kadas called balas, giving these a modern twist. ‘Brides and beads’ hangs strings and bunches of beads with diamonds and pearls. ‘Purely pearls’ is what it sounds like, bringing together a variety of pearls from South Sea to fresh water. ‘Roses by Rose’ is a new collection of rose cut diamonds that revive a bygone age but in a new avatar.
And so we come to ‘Rocks by Rose’. Back to the end where we began. Back to that stunning emerald that Sheetal wears like a queen. And queen she is. The queen of Biren’s heart and the enigmatic muse of Rose.

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