Viren Bhagat – Indian jeweler whose work is exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum
Viren Bhagat is one of the iconic jewelers of our time. He calls his wife his main muse, jogs in the morning, and is also inspired by Indian culture. At the same time, the style of the master is completely European: Bhagat skillfully uses foreign techniques and even invents his own.
Viren Bhagat says that he creates not just jewelry, but works of art. It can take him up to 6 months to make one ring. The master’s works do not end up in retail stores: they are bought by collectors and VIP clients.
Becoming a master
Viren Bhagat was born in a small village on the west coast of India. His family was in the jewelry business, albeit not very well. Three generations of Bhagat jewelers tried to do business in Mumbai, Gujarat, but could not succeed.
Viren began to take an interest in jewelry making during his school years. After class, he went to the Bhagat Brothers store, which belonged to his father and uncle. The boy watched how adults communicate with suppliers and customers, looked at shop windows. The most interesting thing was in the workshop: 20 jewelers created jewelry, bringing every detail to perfection. They also told the boy about precious stones, their origin and methods of evaluation.
Viren Bhagata’s father was a professor at the art school.
Contemporary artists constantly visited his house: they argued for hours about art, sometimes turning to shouting. The boy sat on his father’s lap and listened. He was not going to be an artist, but the art world was close and interesting to him.
In the 1980s, Viren Bhagat went on vacation to Europe. Here he saw Bulgari jewelry for the first time and was delighted. Returning home, Bhagat picked up a pencil and created a series of his own sketches, which was sent by Gianni Bulgari.
The answer did not come immediately. Six months later, Bhagat received a letter in which the famous jewelry designer invited him to a meeting. What else can you dream of? Bhagat collected all his drawings and went to Geneva.
Gianni Bulgari highly appreciated the work of the talented young man and offered him a long-term contract. But Bhagat did not want to be bound by obligations: he very much appreciated freedom. Despite this, the meeting turned out to be useful: as the jeweler later recalled, she convinced him of the correctness of the chosen path.
By the time Viren Bhagat decided to go into jewelry, his father’s business had gone bankrupt. But he did not lose heart, and in 1991 he opened a shop-workshop for a couple with two brothers. Viren worked on the design of the jewelry, Bharat took over the organizational matters, and Rajan dealt with the clients.
At first, the profit was just covering the rent. The brothers chose a small shop without display windows, and the location was not very good. But gradually they attracted the attention of the fashionable public, and the fame of the talented Indian jeweler went beyond the borders of the country.
Several years ago, an exhibition of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani’s Qatari collection took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It included 6,000 unique items, most of which were of venerable age: porcelain from the Ming dynasty, a Mayan jade mask, ivory figurines from ancient Mesopotamia. There were also works by Bhagat in the collection – a pair of bracelets and a brooch with illumination. Apart from him and Joel Arthur Rosenthal, no modern jeweler has ever received such an honor.
For a long time, Viren Bhagat was also called the mysterious jeweler of our time: he never appeared in public. In 2020, the master broke the established rules, and for the first time personally presented his works at the TEFAF exhibition – one of the most important international events in the field of art. The event took place from 7 to 11 March and closed ahead of schedule due to the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, but managed to leave a lot of vivid impressions. Bhagat presented 50 works, among which was a sapphire ring with a shank made of diamond discs.
How the master works
Viren works in the basement of her own house. He is assisted by two sons and hired staff. In total, the structure of the company includes 4 workshops with 20 high-class jewelers, many of whom have been working since the inception of the brand.
Viren Bhagat does not use the usual advertising and marketing tools: he does not pursue titles and public recognition. The master creates only 50-60 pieces of jewelry per year. Most of them are sold before the work is finished.
According to Bhagat, his main muse is his wife. He also looks for inspiration in the environment: every morning the master goes for a jog past the fishing village in Colaba, and watches as the fishermen gather at sea. The walk, clothes, accessories of local residents – all this inspires and awakens a lot of ideas in him. After returning from a run, the master sits down at the table and begins to work, listening to music – mostly trance.
In the works of Bhagat there is a piece of Indian culture: its amazing architecture, music, design, ideas of beauty.
The master does not create traditional jewelry, but they are all heavily inspired by India. It is a unique combination of tradition and modernity, harmonious and impressive.
India is the birthplace of jewelry art, but the idea of it here is specific. In ancient times, it was customary to buy gold and precious stones in this country in kilograms. That is why the aesthetics were very specific – pompous, bright, emphatically luxurious.
Bhagat works differently: he uses metal to a minimum. A distinctive feature of the master is the almost invisible platinum setting: the set stones literally float in the air. Flat cut predominates, which is made in the company’s own workshops.
Viren Bhagat prefers the “5 Treasures” of the Mughal era:
He buys stones in advance, collecting an impressive collection at home: it contains Kashmir sapphires, Colombian emeralds, and Golconda diamonds. During the creation of the next sketch, he selects a suitable copy in advance – and does not calm down until he finds a perfect match with the drawing.
The prices for Viren Bhagat’s work are seven figures. For example, a 5 strand natural pearl necklace with diamonds recently sold for $ 1,695,000. The master says that he is not chasing either commercial success or fame – which does not prevent him from being one of the highest paid jewelers of our time.