He is in the league of extraordinary jewel chiefs. Mumbai-based Nirav Modi is the first Indian jewellery designer to feature on the cover of a Christie’s catalogue, a distinction the auction house had hitherto reserved for internationally renowned brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef and Harry Winston.
Apart from being a celebrated jewellery designer, Modi, 43, is an art aficionado too. "I’ve grown up admiring the Indian masters, artists such as Francis Newton Souza, Sayed Haider Raza and of course, Husain saheb," he says.
An entire wall at Modi’s Lower Parel, Mumbai, office is dedicated to Souza’s impasto works done in the 1970s.
So, when India Art Fair director Neha Kirpal approached him to showcase his creations at this year’s show, he didn’t think twice. "Over the last six years, it has emerged as the most important art fair in the country."
Modi’s reputation for creating jewellery with detailed craftsmanship, using the shiniest and sparkliest diamonds with minimal use of metal precedes him.
But what has the art world abuzz is his penchant for peddling his creations at global auctions at jaw-dropping prices.
Consider this: At Christie’s Autumn Jewellery Auction in 2010, Modi’s exquisite Golconda Necklace was sold for Rs 16.29 crore. If you thought that was impressive, consider the real McCoy: His next creation, a necklace studded with 17 diamonds is likely to fetch an astronomical Rs 50 crore at a Sotheby’s auction to be held in Hong Kong in April.
Family BusinessDiamonds are an integral part of the family history, it appears. Modi’s grandfather traded in the brilliant stone in the 1930s and 1940s, before he shifted to Singapore. His father Deepak Modi took it a notch higher by taking the business to the diamond capital of the world. "I grew up in Antwerp, Belgium and the dinner table conversation often centered on the cut, clarity colour and carat, the four Cs that make a diamond superior."
Apart from the nuances of business, Modi also fondly recalls Antwerp’s natural beauty and countless visits to museums that had the young Nirav fascinated. "As a child, I was inclined towards the arts and wanted to study music. I was spellbound by the conductor who conjures symphonies out of thin air," he says.
Good art is forever, so are diamonds, seems to be Modi’s credo.
The father of two considers the Taj Mahal one of his biggest inspirations. At the India Art Fair, 2014, a sizeable section of his enclosure was dedicated to Mughal miniatures.
The jeweller, who has showrooms in New York, Hong Kong and Belgium among other places said the brand is scheduled to open a store in Delhi in March, followed by one in Mumbai.
In 2013, at the age of 42, he was featured in the Forbes list of billionaires. Modi was 52nd in the list of Indian billionaires and 1,342 in the global list with a net worth of $1 billion.
From HT Brunch, February 9
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