After I came back from my holiday plus jewelry course in Italy, I immediately searched on Google to find out where in Delhi I could buy the necessary jewelry tools to start experimenting with jewelry making. I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be that easy to find the tools here in India.
What I found on the Internet were companies that export tools. I called a few of them and tried to explain what I am looking for. Some were actually quite helpful and I am still considering to maybe visit their offices one of these days.
However, what I realized afterwards was to contact my Indian jewelry design teacher (duh!). I am too used to look for things by myself, not good, I tend to forget that I can actually ask for help…
My teacher was very happy to help and invited me up to visit his place in Chandni Chowk – which I found out is the hub for everything to do with jewelry in Delhi. If you ever visit Delhi, you should visit Chandni Chowk. It’s an amazing maze of alleyways in Old Delhi, full of activity and life wherever you go.
It can maybe be a bit overwhelming – the smells, noise and throngs of people – if you’ve never visited a developing country before.
He took me around the small alleys to places and shops I would never have found on my own. It’s like a gigantic labyrinth in which you can easily get completely lost. But it was surprisingly cool in the alleys compared to outside where the thermometer showed 45 degrees Celsius.
Trust me, even if my life depended on it, I would not be able to find these places again! I ended up buying several tools in Chandni Chowk, while some other tools I think I need to import.
Where I bought my tools; it was so dusty you needed to clean the wrapping to actually see what was inside.
He also told me that it’s not so common to actually make your own jewelry here in India, the main reason being that the job can be done very cheaply by skilled artisans, known in India as karigar. I kindly asked my teacher whether it would be possible to meet the karigar and see them working and I was so excited when he said OK.
After maybe 15 minutes of walking through some pretty dodgy-looking alleys, we ended up in front of a quite run-down building. We entered the darkness of the building, no lighting, climbed the railing-less stairs, and entered a very small room on the second floor.
There they were, four of them, all looking shocked. But I am pretty sure, it was not because of me, but because they saw my 2 meter-blonde-and-blue-eyed husband behind me : )
The karigar did not speak English. My teacher needed to explain my mission to them : ). They were surprised, and asked: “Why don’t you let us make your designs..do the work?”. All of them were looking at me with pleading eyes. I felt terrible with their looks, like I was stealing their opportunities to receive orders from me.
I explained again, through my teacher of course, that I really really really want to do it myself at this point of time so I can learn and that I enjoy very much doing it.
Then I showed them my work – a brass necklace I made in Florence- of course hesitantly. They studied the piece, talked to each other, and smiled. I understood from their looks and reactions that they were surprised. I was so proud. Just like a 10-year old : )
The jeweler workbench! They will look for one for me. And I am still waiting…I hope I’ll get it soon.
They were all so soft-spoken and humble and I could feel that they are proud of what they do. I respect what they are doing in that little workshop, with such a limited space and with traditional tools. I could spend hours there seeing what they do.