Brilliant borlas, chokers embellished with pearls and precious stones, twinkling multi-layered necklaces in gold and polki, armlets encrusted with uncut diamonds and rubies, traditional Rajasthani bangles with red velvet on the inside… When Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, laden with spectacular pieces of period jewellery, danced into the hearts of viewers in the recent historical drama Padmaavat, she also set a trend in bridal jewellery.
Within weeks of the film hitting the screens, brides-to-be were flocking jewellery stores across India and the UAE, keen to pick up Padmaavat-inspired pieces, keen to make a statement on their big day.
But then Bollywood inspiring bridal jewellery trends in the subcontinent and beyond is not new. A decade ago, Mughal era-style jewellery began trending when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan showcased spectacular pieces in the period epic Jodhaa Akbar; more recently, replicas of royal jewellery that Sonam Kapoor donned in the 2015 movie Prem Rattan Dhan Payo began shining brilliantly in a bride’s jewellery chest within days of the movie coming out.
‘Without doubt, Bollywood inspires jewellery trends, particularly bridal jewellery trends,’ says Malabar Gold’s managing director for international operations, Shamlal Ahamed.
John Paul seconds that. ‘The fact that Bollywood movies play a huge role in setting jewellery trends can be gauged from the fact that weddings, even in southern India, have picked up trends from Hindi movies,’ says the executive director of Joyalukkas. Padmaavat, he adds, has triggered a trend for Rajputana-style jewellery that has become a must-have for Indian brides.
Striking a slightly different note, Ramesh Kalyanaraman says that while Deepika’s character did trigger a trend of sorts, ‘I’d say that the popular pieces for this wedding season are the ones Anushka Sharma wore for her wedding to Virat Kohli. That was more real and was about real people and real jewellery that they used on their big day,’ says the executive director of Kalyan Jewellers.
Onscreen or offscreen, what is absolutely clear is that celebrities can – and do – set trends.
While accurate industry figures are hard to come by, according to some estimates, the gold and jewellery market in India is worth over $60bn, of which at least 50 per cent is related to bridal jewellery.
‘Dubai, rightly known as the City of Gold, has more varied and diverse choices compared to India,’ says Shamlal. ‘Here, styles from Italy, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore... and, of course, India, are easily available and in plenty.’
And, in a bid to garner a larger slice of this glittering pie, jewellers constantly monitor trends and influences, quickly launching new designs that cater to customers’ demands. That said, a survey of major jewellery chains in the UAE reveals that new styles often have to fight for shelf space with traditional designs.
‘Oxidised gold with a lot of Rajputana flavour is trending, but tradition still rules when it comes to the jewellery a bride wears on the day of the rituals,’ says Karim Merchant. ‘The period movies we see now and the jewellery in them is only a reminder of our culture and what happened in yesteryears in terms of design.’
The CEO of Pure Gold says the modern generation is still in love with classic jewellery designs. ‘Traditional pieces still rule because for a lot of people, the jewellery they buy for the ritual day is pretty much like the relationship they are entering into – it’s something they want to endure for life. It’s not something that they want to keep changing every season. It’s quite like a family heirloom that they would like to pass onto their daughters and daughters-in-law.’
Karim’s views ring a bell. Across the UAE, market leaders largely agree that while the jewellery used on the day of the wedding rituals is still traditional in terms of designs and motifs, where the changes are being noticed are in the pieces the bride wears during the pre- and post-wedding events.
‘It’s interesting to note that what was popular say 20-30 years ago is slowly returning to the top of the popularity charts,’ says Shamlal. ‘What is changing is the way we are celebrating a wedding. Gold was - and still is - a very integral part of the wedding ritual day.
‘[But] the bulk of the jewellery purchase has now moved away from the ritual to pre- and post-wedding events. If the choice of jewellery for the wedding day is dictated by the parents, the bride gets to have her say when it comes to choosing the jewellery for the pre- and post-wedding events.’
Kalyan Jewellers’ Ramesh supports the view.
‘Brides don’t usually experiment with styles for their big day, opting instead for time-tested classic pieces and styles. But it’s a different scene for the events on the preceding and succeeding days of the wedding,’ says Ramesh.
Pre-mehndi and post-party receptions are now common even in traditionally more restrained south Indian weddings and are fast becoming occasions when the bride gets to wear non-traditional pieces of jewellery that could be of diamonds, precious stones and polki (natural uncut diamonds).
‘Diamonds usually don’t go well with a heavy elaborate wedding sari,’ says Shamlal. ‘The bling of a diamond can rarely suit a sari, unless it’s a cocktail party sari. So while gold jewellery is used during the ritual event on the big day, diamonds and precious stones feature heavily during the other events. Polki and kundan (a traditional form of gemstone jewellery) as well as rubies and emeralds are becoming extremely popular and that is the big shift happening over the past four-five years.’
Jewellery designers, he says, are working hard to create diamond pieces that can go well with a wedding sari. ‘I’d say about 10 per cent of the diamond jewellery can be used with such saris.’
John Paul, too, feels that precious stone jewellery works well for pre- and post-wedding events. ‘For the party events, we are seeing the bride wearing trendy, elegant pieces with precious stones – particularly those that are Bollywood inspired,’ says John Paul.
Polki and precious stone jewellery are clearly finding favour among modern brides.
Says Ramesh: ‘In fact, polki diamond mix jewellery was the most popular during the previous wedding season. Pieces with uncut diamonds too are popular.’
Karim of Pure Gold feels that while diamond jewellery is gaining popularity, gold is unlikely to lose its sparkle. ‘There’s a lot of experimentation happening [in diamond jewellery] over the last decade and half. But while it’s growing, I don’t see it replacing gold jewellery,’ he says. ‘At best, it is going to be an additional element in the bride’s jewel box.’
He offers a telling illustration: ‘If a person has $100, he is not going to split it equally on gold and diamond purchases. Instead, he’ll say, ‘‘I’ll buy $100 worth of gold and use an extra $30 that I have for diamond jewellery’.’
There’s another reason brides are opting for diamonds and precious stones events around their big day. ‘Today, most brides choose their attire for the pre and post wedding events well in advance and then shop for jewellery to match the dresses,’ says Karim. ‘So, the trend in jewellery follows the trends in bridal fashion.
‘If, for instance, the top five bridal designers decide that the colour of the season is red or pastel pink or yellow, the jewellery will complement these shades, he says.
Shamlal holds the same view. ‘Fashion pretty much determines the accessories that go with it. So if a Sabyasachi or Manish Malhotra [India’s biggest names in bridal wear] launches a new bridal wear collection, we can pretty much forecast the kind of jewellery that will become a trend based on the kind of pieces that will suit the attire.’
Ramesh backs that. ‘Very often, the bride chooses her outfit first, then picks the jewellery to go with it. The jewellery should match the outfit and not the other way round,’ he says.
John makes an important point. ‘While bridal jewellery is a very important part of the business, we also keep in mind that there will be women other than the bride who will also be shopping for jewellery to wear to a wedding,’ he says.
Have there been any changes in individual pieces of jewellery?
‘Traditionally, in the south of India, brides used to wear layers of jewellery,’ says John Paul. ‘The change we now see is that layered jewellery is slowly giving way to the use of traditional pieces that are elegant. Lighter, ornate and classic pieces are replacing chunky, heavy ones.’
Temple jewellery is also seeing a revival of sorts. ‘Pieces with Hindu religious motifs such as peacocks and lamps, for instance, are becoming popular,’ says Shamlal. ‘The gold used for these pieces has a slightly reddish tint and is unlike the pure yellow gold used for regular pieces of jewellery.’
He also sees an upswing in the popularity of chokers. ‘Earlier, the piece would just cover the neck. Now it’s extending down almost until the start of the neckline of the blouse or dress.’
Karim agrees. ‘Historically, chokers, necklaces and long chains have always been popular and they continue to be so.’
Another subtle change that market watchers have noticed is the spike in the popularity of earrings. ‘They have become very important pieces in a bride’s jewellery collection,’ says Shamlal. ‘Sporting a statement piece earring for a pre- or post-event is the trend.
‘In any women’s jewellery collection, the largest number of pieces are very likely earrings, followed by rings, bangles and necklaces simply because earrings are the most commonly used accessory.’
John Paul believes movies such as Padmaavat have had a role to play in shining the spotlight on earrings. ‘Earrings do play a big role not just in a bride’s jewellery set but also for the other women in the family. Large statement pieces are the trend for post and pre-events,’ he says.
According to Karim, although earrings are strictly not high on the priority list of wedding day jewellery, ‘the modern bride makes it a point to buy at least one pair of statement earrings during her trousseau shopping. Often, a statement-piece earring and a lovely necklace can complete a look,’ he says.
Nose rings, too, are gaining popularity. ‘If earlier it was more of a Hindu traditional accessory, now it has become a fashion statement,’ says John. As an aside, he adds that Aamir Khan sporting a nose stud in his latest movie, Thugs of Hindustan, could trigger a trend of men wearing this accessory. ‘We will be keeping an eye on that trend,’ he says.
Are there major differences in the kinds of bridal jewellery used across India?
‘Yes,’ says Karim of Pure Gold. ‘Bridal jewellery for every region of India is different. It’s very similar to food – each region has its own peculiar and specific designs.’ But if there is a common theme, it is of sticking to traditional pieces.
‘We are noticing an increase in the use of diamonds as part of the bride’s jewellery collection,’ says John Paul. ‘This appears to be the trend even among south Indians who until recently rarely included precious stones as part of the bridal collection.’
Shamlal finds diamonds and polki becoming popular particularly in northern India. ‘Solitaire diamonds too are becoming popular for the engagement ceremony as well as for some weddings,’ he says.
A family’s budget for wedding jewellery purchases, too, has evolved over the years.
‘If earlier, people came with a certain mindset of say wanting 40 sovereigns [one sovereign is 8gms of gold], now they come to the store with a certain budget depending on their financial status,’ says Ramesh, of Kalyan Jewellers. ‘The budget is the new change because now the customers are buying not just gold jewellery but also some pieces with precious stones.’
What’s the typical budget for a bridal jewellery set?
‘That would depend on the financial status of the family,’ says Shamlal. High Networth Individuals set aside a sizeable chunk of the wedding jewellery budget for the pre- and post-events, he adds.
Ramesh, too, toes a similar line. ‘The wedding jewellery budget depends on the financial standing of the individual and it is usually divided into two or three sections for the pre- and post events.’