I recently traveled to India and Sri Lanka, two of the world’s primary markets for the gem and jewelry trade. On the first leg of my trip I had the opportunity to experience the Diwali Festival, participate in an industry conference, and engage in the local trading market in pursuit of some new inventory in the magical city of Jaipur.
Jaipur is affectionately known as the Pink City as many of its buildings and structures, including the nine imposing gates of entry into the walled city, are painted pink. The old city’s buildings were painted pink to welcome Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales in 1876, and this has remained a trademark of the city ever since. The color pink represents hospitality, and in the same way Jaipur welcomed these royal folks, Jaipurians welcome all their visitors. It is surely one of the most hospitable places I’ve ever been to.
The city is a major colored gemstone manufacturing center. Merchants import rough gemstones and cut and polish them for distribution to global markets. Of the estimated 250,000 people employed in the gem and jewelry sector in Jaipur, approximately 150,000 of them are involved in gem cutting.
I arrived in Jaipur in the morning of the third day of Diwali, the main festive day, for the Lakshmi Puja. It was a real treat to be in India for the occasion. I was invited by a dear friend to spend the holiday with his family and was an experience I will always cherish. Family members gather together from all over the country and all over the world. Jaipur, as I now understand, is an especially festive destination for Diwali, as the city is one that really takes time to appreciate its culture and traditions. Homes and buildings are decorated with lights, like Christmas lights in the USA, and while similar to the Fourth of July in the USA, the use of firecrackers in India achieves a new level of enthusiasm! Starting around sundown, the sound and smell of firecrackers engulfs the city and doesn’t really stop until the next day. Diwali traditions and rituals are performed over the 5-day holiday to ensure that the New Year is filled with peace, wealth and prosperity.
After the Diwali festivities, I participated in the International Colored Gemstone Association’s biannual Congress which was held at the Fairmont Hotel just outside the city limits from October 21-24. The ICA is comprised of over 700 gem industry leaders from 47 countries involved in all sectors of the industry from mine to market. It is devoted to advancing and promoting the knowledge and appreciation of colored gemstones. The four-day event is a forum for education, networking and discussing pertinent issues facing the colored gemstone industry. Topics such as new sources of supply (such as rubies from Greenland), supply chain transparency, mine to market initiatives, mining and more were presented by industry leaders. Of course, there was time for fun as well, with many planned functions including a golf and cricket tournament, dinners at historic destinations such as the City Palace and Jaigarh Fort, an Opening Ceremony and a Closing Gala.
Following the Congress, I packed my bags and headed closer to the city center as now it was time to hunt for gems. Over the course of the next few days I visited several gem cutting factories and buying offices where I looked through select emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Jaipur is especially known as a hub for emerald manufacturing, and the majority of Zambian emeralds are processed here.
As my time in Jaipur ended, my trip was far from over. Instead of my normal United Airlines flight from Delhi to Newark, I was on Sri Lankan Airways to Colombo to investigate the land of sapphires...