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Connecting over Chai with Madhuri Parson

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Connecting over Chai with Madhuri Parson

January 4, 2016 BY Alon Ben-Shoshan IN Artisan Craftsmanship

Madhuri Parson spent her teenage summers in Jaipur, where her grandfather, a fifth generation Indian karigar, taught her the art and business of jewelry making. She remembers watching him create beautiful pieces out of high karat gold foil, and taking trips to the city to source vibrant gemstones, specifically, emeralds, which he would later export to London, Paris and Geneva.

However, Parson insists that her most powerful memories are of her grandfather’s kindness, rather than his skill or savvy. “I still have snapshots in my head of my grandfather taking in clients from Europe,” she says. “They would sit on the carpet with us, have chai, and we would bless them for good luck and good health. [They were] foreigners, but they were like us. Our mentalities were the same.”

Maduri Parson is a sixth generation jewelry maker.

Maduri Parson is a sixth generation jewelry maker.

As an independent jewelry designer, Parson draws on her grandfather’s values as well as his traditions. “My grandfather wasn’t prejudiced towards another culture. Their skin color was different, but there was a connection.” Likewise, her exclusive Unity Collection for Diamond Foundry features recurring infinity motifs that invoke the same sense of oneness she first felt on the carpet as a teenager. “Everyone is looking for connection,” she says, “for putting together the pieces. Through my struggle, I realize how much I want to connect with people.”

To bring the interlocking spirals of her designs to life, Parson connected with her Los Angeles-based craftsman, Carlos. Since Parson lives in Manhattan, they communicate mostly over Facetime and Skype. (Though she frequently makes trips to LA to work directly with him at his bench, which, to her, trumps all electronic communications.) “The interpretation is the most difficult thing,” she says. “He can’t just be the magical guy to interpret everything, and I have to be patient. We can spend a day or so just trying to understand it.” Once Parson gives him the all clear, Carlos handcrafts a master model that can be made into customizable samples. “The Unity Collection exclusively for Diamond Foundry is the first collection I’ve made locally,” she says. “Giving work locally relates back to unity. I want someone to be proud and say, ‘this was made in the USA, and this designer connects as much to India as she does here.’”

Parson at the bench with her craftsman, Carlos.

Parson at the bench with her craftsman, Carlos.

Indeed, Parson’s Indian roots are evident not just in her designs, but in her business practices as well. When she was first starting out, she traveled to India in 2010 to work with the karigars. “It’s a trust-based business,” says Parson, who speaks to her craftsmen using the formal (and reverential) ‘you’ in Hindi. “I’m very conscious of working with them – they’re artists, and they think very much about making beautiful things. Unlike mass production, they’re humans. I have to treat them with respect.” In turn, the craftsmen praise Parson for her courtesy, and for offering some of the most challenging work in the business.

Parson working alongside her craftsmen.

Parson working alongside the karigars as part of her first collection.

Ultimately, whether they’re one-of-a-kind custom works or Unity Collection pieces, Parson hopes that her distinctive designs will empower their wearers as identity affirming totems. “As my own customer, I felt that I wanted something special and unique. When you pick a piece of jewelry, I want you to feel like ‘it’s calling to me,’” she says. It’s also one of the reasons that she chose to work with Diamond Foundry. “I think that [the Collective] aligns with my goals of having something unique to offer to the market. I think that I would be a customer of Diamond Foundry.”

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