Video: Why Indian Jeweler Viren Bhagat Quit Jobs at Bulgari: Jewelery That Sells for Millions
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 13:10
India has always been famous for its luxurious jewelry, but today, perhaps, one name burns brighter than others in the jewelry firmament - Viren Bhagat. Almost nothing is known about him, he communicates little with journalists, rarely leaves the workshop, and his creations do not need advertising - they are sold out even at the stage of creation, although they are fabulously expensive. Who is Viren Bhagat - the man who turned down the most prestigious jewelry brands for his own dream?
In the story of Bhagat there will be no sentimental stories like "a boy from a poor Indian village has always dreamed of creating beauty." The Virena family has been famous among Indian jewelers for a whole century. His great-grandfather came from a family of gem traders, was himself a successful jeweler in Gujarat, and then moved to Mumbai, deciding to expand the business. Viren grew up in a wealthy family. Every morning he was greeted by the sun over the Arabian Sea. True, his father was a rebel - he chose the career of an artist and teacher of fine arts, and Viren was always especially attached to his father. He told him the secrets of art, the house was always full of paintings, reproductions, albums … However, when Viren was ten, his father was forced to take over the reins of the old family business, which soon turned into a successful jewelry workshop "Bhagat Brothers" next to the opera house in Mumbai.
At thirteen, Viren volunteered to help his father. Sometimes he replaced the sellers, but more often he spent time in the workshop, watching the creation of jewelry masterpieces. True, for all his love for this business, at first he did not think about a career as a designer. Viren received an economic education, planned to deal with the financial affairs of the workshop … but only these things were getting worse and worse. Bhagat's father was no longer young and could not find the strength to keep the business afloat. Thirty-year-old Viren, who did not want to part with his family business, moved to Kuwait and got a job in his uncle's jewelry store.
And then his fateful meeting with Gianni Bulgari, the founder of that very Bulgari brand, took place. During one of his trips, Viren Bhagat ended up in Rome and entered a jewelry store with a Bulgari sign - partly out of interest, partly to explore the range and prices. It was at this time that the brand launched a collection of jewelry with Indian motives. Viren was amazed, delighted, in love and annoyed at the same time. Can't Indian jewelers promote their culture the same way - loud, expensive, luxurious? Shouldn't jewelry be the national pride of his home country?
Bhagat grew up in an artist's family, but believed that he could not draw. After all, he had hardly ever practiced it before. But, shocked by what he saw in the Bulgari store, in the hotel room, he picked up a pencil and … sketched several precise, daring sketches of jewelry. At that time he thought about the Great Mughals and their treasures, about the beauty of nature and architecture of India … Bhagat sent several sketches to Bulgari - not hoping for a response, but rather wanting to show what "Indian motives" look like when the bearer of culture himself gets down to business. Almost immediately, Gianni Bulgari called him and offered him the position of a designer. It was an incredible success, but Viren … refused.“I will not paint for anyone else, only for myself,” he replied. Bulgari blessed the young designer and wished him success in his work.
Inspired by his meeting with the master, Bhagat returned to India and in 1991, together with his two brothers, opened a shop-workshop. This is how the Bhagat jewelry house was born. The brothers represented the ideal creative trio - Viren was in the jewelry design, Bharat was in the management and expert evaluation of materials, and Rajan, the soul of the company and the favorite of women, worked with clients. The brothers did not seek to conquer the world - they just wanted to make and sell jewelry. The location for the store was not the best, it had no shop windows, and the prices for jewelry barely covered the cost of creating them. However, Viren decided that he would not focus on the market, fashion, and traditions. Complete creative freedom!
And this was the secret of the Bhagat house's success. They were so different from others, they stood out so much against the general background, so harmoniously combined Indian traditions and Western chic that there was no end of buyers. Everyone who did not find something close and dear in European jewelry, and everyone who was dissatisfied with the endless self-copying of Indian jewelers, became loyal fans and admirers of the Bhagat brothers. In addition, Viren from the very beginning was meticulous about the quality of the products, he strove for hidden fixtures and thin frames, impeccable quality of stones. He especially gravitates towards old stones with classic shades and precise cut. Today, the finest stones from all over the world flock to his workshop.
His impeccable sense of proportion, perfectionism and imagination allowed him to create jewelry that cannot be found equal. Bhagat has always strived for the quality and high style of Cartier in the 1920s and 30s, adopting the angular forms of Art Deco, but never directly borrowing. He was the first in India to start working with platinum as the "high" jewelry houses in Europe.
Jewelry production gradually expanded, new craftsmen came to the brothers, jewelry prices rose, orders appeared … So in just three decades, from a small local brand Bhagat turned into a cult jewelry house with huge incomes. At the same time, Bhagat is a very “closed” brand. You can't just get to work there, the families of craftsmen have been associated with the Bhagat dynasty for several generations. They hardly communicate with journalists, do not advertise. Viren still makes sketches with colored pencils, as then, in a room in a Roman hotel, his workshop is his home, and his two sons are preparing to inherit the family business.
“I am proud that everything we do, we do in India,” says world-renowned jeweler Viren Bhagat in his rare interviews.