The scion of a family of diamond dealers brings his jewelry designs from Mumbai to Manhattan.
Born into a diamantaire family in Mumbai, India, and raised in Antwerp, Belgium, Nirav Modi learned early on how to identify the top-quality diamonds in a pile of stones. But instead of following his father and grandfather into the thriving family business, he eventually returned to Mumbai, and five years ago he established his namesake jewelry collection, which is inspired by Indian art, among other influences. “My jewelry is about design as opposed to a rock,” says the 44-year-old jeweler, whose collection will become available in the United States for the first time in September with the opening of his store on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue.
Modi expresses his Indian aesthetic in Mogul floral patterns and lotus flowers formed from diamonds. Instead of pairing the stones with the bold gold settings that typify Indian jewelry, Modi places them in light and airy settings that are commonly associated with European jewelry. “My clients don’t want blingy jewelry,” he says. “It has to be distinctive but also have a degree of classicism, because I want them to wear it today and 10 and 20 years from now.”
Over the past few years, Modi has developed several new jewelry concepts. Among them is a stretchable diamond-covered bangle that he modeled after his young daughter’s colorful elastic wristbands. Called the Embrace Bangle, it comprises 780 moving parts, including gold springs that expand and contract so that it can stretch over the wrist.
Modi’s training in the family business and his access to some of the finest-quality stones have given him an advantage in building his collection. “For 30 years I have been looking at diamonds,” he says. “There is an intuition with selecting the right diamonds, and they don’t have to be huge to be important; even the smallest stones I select have to have character.” Once he selects the rough diamonds, they are cut to his specifications. The jewelry, which has a starting price of $2,200, is crafted in his Mumbai workshop.
Much as he enjoys selecting stones and designing jewelry, Modi says his greatest pleasure is watching a customer try on a necklace or earrings in one of his shops in Mumbai or New Delhi. “I love seeing a woman’s face light up when surrounded by diamonds.”
Nirav Modi, niravmodi.com