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Despite the spurt in designer jewellery stores in Goa, traditional jewellers continue to capture the hearts and imagination of the local clientele

Be it a proposal, a gift, a wedding or any happy occasion, the sparkle of gold can set off any good intention into a smile. Gold has always been held as an asset whose value grows rather than diminishes with time and is therefore in perpetual demand. The craftsmanship of Goan goldsmiths honed over centuries has been enhanced by both eastern and the western influences that came in with the Portuguese era. Linked by long association, many families in Goa continue to rely on their own particular goldsmith.

Traditional goldsmiths continue to believe that no modern competition can emulate the fine detail of their workmanship. Nonetheless, Goa has witnessed a huge spurt in jewellery showrooms spanning vast floor areas with enticing entrances and interiors and an endless line of jewellery collections to choose from. In comparison, our local jewellers don’t come anywhere close to this fancy display.

Walking into the old joalharia, G X Verlekar in Panjim, one is struck by how unlike the shop is to the modern day jewellery showrooms that have sprung up in the capital, most of them decked with sparkling lights and with courteous staff in attendance. What is most apparent at Verlekar’s are the simple, minimal items on display and the owner sitting across the counter. Suvarnkumar Verlekar takes much pride in introducing himself, unfazed by the competitive market of bigger, bolder showrooms mushrooming across the state. “Business is good as usual” he says, insisting with a note of confidence that it could not have been better. “We have been in this line since 1920 and we have our local customers who have been with us for as long as I can remember. They continue to believe in our work and we are unaffected by the presence of newer competitors in the market.”

The old goldsmiths still attract their traditional clientele as Verlekar explains: “The principles of making jewellery are the same for all jewellers. But nowadays it is machine versus man, and handmade craftsmanship cannot be achieved 100 per cent with a machine. Perhaps that is where the distinction lies. Also, the business in the new showrooms is mostly diamond based with a lot of inset work of diamonds in gold and with a much wider variety on offer to the customer. We do not have that.”

The new showrooms indeed have an elaborate variety on display, offering a wide choice to customers unlike with the traditional jewellers where a design is made to order according to the customer’s request. The customer selects a pattern, places the order and the goldsmith takes two to three weeks to deliver. The craftsman needs the time to look into the minute detailing of the personalised jewellery ordered. The new showrooms on the other hand cater to buyers on the go, unlike with the traditional jewellers.

Despite the waiting period, it is the minute detailing of traditional jewellers that customers cherish. Filigree and platinizing are their specialisation, says Mr Verlekar. While filigree is the fine inset detailing in gold, platinizing involves work with platinum and is traditionally Portuguese in design.

Many customers still remain loyal to the traditional jewellers. For instance, Marissa Fernandes from Panjim says she prefers “jewellery made by local jewellers as they cater to the kind of work we like and it is usually preferred for weddings and other occasions.”

Tradition can never go out of style no matter what the new market brings in, says Ashok Sirsat of Sirsat Jewellers also located in Panjim. They’ve been in business since 1949, and they too specialise in filigree and platinum work. “Most of my customers are Catholic and are fond of the intrinsic designs in gold, platinum and stones,” he says.
He adds, “Besides the craftsmanship, our prices are also competitive. While the labour charges are much higher with newer showrooms, such charges are more affordable for us. So if a jewellery set requires immediate repair, local goldsmiths can do it much faster unlike with the new jewellery shops that take at least a month because they need to send the piece to Mumbai even for an engraving.”

Nilesh Upadhyay, store in charge at Tanishq Jewellers in Panjim which has opened a flagship store recently says, “We are here to set jewellery standards and offer total transparency to our customers. Being a Tata store, all our jewellery is checked for gold purity. We have a karat meter in our store to show the customer the quality of gold used which is always 92 per cent and more.”

He adds that unlike other jewellers in Goa, they extend a 100 per cent exchange policy to their customers and have seen a growth in business with their transparent policy. “We even have our craftsman stationed at the store and, if required, we provide various services to customers for their specific tastes in jewellery,” he says.

Subrai Chodankar of Dayaram House of Jewellery in Mapusa believes that jewellers in Goa can never lose business from their local clients because they are owners and deal with their clients directly. “We understand their requirements and having a background in craftsmanship helps us build a connect and cater to their needs at a reasonable price. We even offer discounts,” he says.

His clients vary, depending on the wedding season. “Be it Catholics, Hindus or Muslims—each have their own requirement for jewellery. A Hindu wedding will require kankana, patti, todo, ghot, mangalsutra and dual, while a Catholic wedding will need a set of necklaces, bangles, earrings and wedding rings,” he says.

Little wonder then why Goans go predominantly for ‘old is gold’, cherishing the craftsmanship and labour put in by traditional local jewellers. One customer, who wished to remain anonymous, had another reason for preferring the native jeweller. He had once bought jewellery from a modern showroom but was suddenly in need of urgent money. He explains, “I remember that the showroom jeweller had assured me that he would exchange the jewellery for cash. When I went back they refused to do so, but offered other jewellery in exchange. They were also going to make deductions on the actual cost. I prefer our local jewellers who offer good value for old gold and don’t misguide their customers.”

This article first appeared in Goa Timeline Magazine Vol.1, Issue 2 (Page 48). 

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