I have said it before, but it’s worth repeating, Mughal jewelry made in India starting around the 17th century is one of the most amazing and influential styles ever created.
What keeps the age-old look so relevant? Unlike so many other historic modes, there is movement in the designs. Actually, there is more of a dance in the hoops and bangles, the tassels and fringe-set gems. A glorious glamour comes from the generous scale of the jewels and blend of stones in various shapes and colors. Ultimately, there is a modernity to the style that inspires designers and jewelry lovers to this day.
Milan Tanvir Chokshi, the founder of Moksh jewelry based in Bombay, has a deep understanding and appreciation for Mughal styles. He pays tribute to and reimagines the looks in a totally unique way through his magnificent collection that was launched in 2005. (After tremendous success internationally, Moksh entered the American market in 2018.)
When I first saw the collection at the Couture jewelry show in Las Vegas, I was completely in awe.
One of the key elements of the designs is seed pearls. The itsy-bitsy pearls infuse the pieces with a texture and an ethereal look. While the gems can be found throughout history not only in Mughal jewelry but also in Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco designs, they are rarely used in modern work.
Another signature feature in the Moksh jewels is baguette cut diamonds. The geometric shaped gems are employed imaginatively throughout many of the jewels in the collection.
Both of these features, like everything in the Moksh collection, are rooted in Milan’s family history in jewelry that dates back over 50-years. I spoke to Milan over a joyful Zoom call to find out all about the collection, the sources of inspiration and more. Read on for highlights of our conversation.
Tell me a little about your family’s history in the jewelry world
My family has worked in so many areas of jewelry over the years. During the 1920s and 30s, members of my family including my great grandfather were gem traders in Rangoon and Burma. Then they got started in gold. Gold has always been a prized possession for Indian families.
Around 1966 my dad began a diamond cutting and export business to Japan and the Far East. Baguettes and Keshi pearls became our area of expertise. Next, we moved into providing jewelry for our clients. Somewhere around 2005, I saw that there was a space for jewelry with a refined Indian aesthetic and launched Moksh.
What does the name Moksh mean?
Moksh has several meanings including a salvation and a liberation of sorts. The term goes back to an ancient Indian religion called Jainism. It is older than Hinduism. It is an extreme part of non-violence. Moksh is what we all aspire for.
The pearl weaving in the collection with colorful gems and diamonds is so spectacular and unique. Tell me how you came up with the idea for the aesthetic of gems.
In India we adorn the idols of gods with gemstones and pearls and diamonds. My designer and I were talking about adapting this into jewelry so that was the genesis of the idea.
The pearls link back to my family’s history and we also wanted to use baguettes which we have a long legacy with as well. And then there are the colorful gemstones. We always use fine quality gemstones. Even if they are small, they have this vibrance.
The process of incorporating the seed pearls into the jewels must be so intricate.
It is done with a needle and thread, magnifying glasses and a lot of patience.
We are able to help the pearl weavers make the complex patterns by precisely mapping where the holes in the pearls should be using Cad Cam, computer aided technology. But the craftsmanship is all done by hand.
Currently, we have four or five weavers who do this. It is mind-boggling how they do it. I don’t know if the next generation will be able to execute the same type of work. There is always talk about how diamond mines close and supply comes to an end, but in the future craftsmanship could be in much shorter supply than even the rarest gems.
I think it is wonderful that you apply these techniques to smaller ready-to-wear jewels as well as the larger statement pieces.
We want the jewelry to be enjoyed by lots of different people so we do apply our aesthetic to styles in various sized jewels. There is also an intimacy and personal quality to the small jewels that makes them a nice addition to a woman’s jewelry collection.
*This post was produced in collaboration with our friends at Moksh. Highlights from the collection can be purchased online at ElizabethAnthony.com Moksh is also available in-store at these specialty boutiques: Coplons, Gem Box, The Jewelry Bar and Belle Cose.