Gurusamy Goldsmiths is a luxury jewellery brand which seeks to unify tradition with the new. With its roots in Coimbatore, South India, the family business to this day uses traditional local artisans, hand crafted with great care through traditional methods, to create bespoke, meaningful designs. While the business has been trading for nearly a century, it is now looking to evolve within the UK, under the helm of family member Saravana Gurusamy. His vision is to “bring the ancestral way of jewellery making back to life in a sustainable way,” whilst connecting designers and artisans throughout the world in his mission to do so. Jewellery Focus sat down with Gurusamy to find out more about the family business, and his plans to revolutionise the jewellery industry.
“Gurusamy Goldsmiths is a family business and always has been,” says Saravana Gurusamy, who is himself a central member of this long-standing family. “This business in particular goes back three generations in our family. For years, we have been traditional goldsmiths that use ancient tools, and they have served everyone from the temples to the royal families of the time.” On occasion, the family has even helped to create the big chains worn by UK mayors in the colonisation period, according to Gurusamy. “So our family and our business both have a very rich history, I must say.” Gurusamy grew up with both within his close family as well as the whole community, and says that whilst his family dealt with gold jewellery “all of the time”, he was initially kept away from that side of the business, instead pushed into focusing on his studies and engineering. “So half my life I have grown up here, whilst staying in touch with the family and the business,” says Gurusamy.
He adds: “And it was here that it just kind of struck me. Whenever I came across any jewellery or designs, I started to think what I was seeing in these creations around me was not quite the same as to what I was used to back home. Part of me thought jewellers could have done better, be it with the quality, the way they make it, the use of pure gold, for example. It was there in the back of my mind all the time, because I’ve always had a fascination for jewellery and the arts and design.”
As time went on, Gurusamy became fascinated with the thought: “Why don’t we bring these designs here, and work with the designers and artisans back home? Why don’t we refer back to our old designs, and then give it a refinement to suit tastes in the UK and Europe?”
This would be the start of Gurusamy Goldsmiths, whose creations are traditionally made, yet seek to unify traditions with the new century and new cultures. It was not just tradition that would form an integral part of its creations, however. “We also wanted to make our pieces bespoke and special”, says Gurusamy. “That’s why we, as a family, don’t mass produce pieces. The maximum we do is 10 quantities at a time, for example. Because at the end of the day, it is handcrafted and it is very meticulous. It takes weeks to make just one piece of jewellery because it has to go through so many processes, right from finding the right gold and blending the coppers, straight through to the end design.”In terms of inspiration, Gurusamy notes that all designs are inspired by the traditional old designs of his home country, as well as the business’ artisans, who have been working with the family for generations. “From the start, we wanted to have their experience and really involve them in this. And they do come up with a lot of brilliant ideas.”
When Gurusamy first said that the business was going to introduce traditional designs to the outside world, the artisans were immediately called upon for help. “We wanted them to create with their mind, their own inspirations, create pieces out of beliefs that were important to them,” says Gurusamy. “Obviously, to an extent artisans always worked with what the customer wanted, but their own inspirations are very important.”
So how does the design process work? “We take it from just a hand-drawn print, then work around it and work towards materialising it. We then think about what coloured stones we may use for particular pieces, and what the effects of those colours will have on the pieces overall. A lot of thought and processes and inspirations are behind every design, you see. But the main idea is to keep it traditional, and meet the present. At the same time, use the purest gold as possible – gold jewellery is luxury at the end of the day, so why would you want to compromise with an 8kt or 9kt when you can use 22kts, for example.”
Gurusamy says the group went back to the old designs from the family archive, “just to get some inspiration and bring that touch of tradition to these new pieces”. He adds: “And then, it took at least a month for the artisans to come back with a lot of ideas. They brought so much of their expertise and great ideas to us, in terms of what materials to use for what pieces, what gemstones to use – whether we use vibrant gemstones in certain pieces or not.”
He continues: “And of course, we had our input, and would point out if a part of a certain design needed to be edited, for example, such as the tone of the gold. But all in all, the concepts behind the pieces are inspired by them. Since they have the passion for designs, they gave a lot of zeal to the pieces. You can literally see their passion reflected in the pieces when you look at them.”
Whilst much of the design inspiration is born from transition, the crafting process itself uses traditional technologies from Coimbatore, though the group has incorporated more modern tools along the way. “But the majority of crafting processes and tools are what we’ve used all throughout my life, it’s everything that I’ve witnessed growing up,” says Gursamy.
“All pieces are handcrafted within this very special community, so the whole process, right from sourcing the gold to polishing the final pieces, is all done within the same town, he says, adding that this in part is what makes the group a sustainable one. “And if we do have to source diamonds, for example, alongside certain gemstones we use, we will only do so from another region in the same country. And remember, within the whole process, there is no mass-production. We’re not talking about hundreds of products made in a factory.”
Gurusamy notes that one of the visions of the group is to connect designers from across the globe to the culture of South India. “This is certainly a part of our future plans,” he says. “We are now collaborating with Italian artisans, for example, who we’ve been working with for the past year.
“We have connected with local artisans in Italy, and found that we actually do have a lot in common together. Much of the time we found the same inspirations, for example, and we noted that in many cases, they used the same traditional methods and sustainable products as us. As we shared similar dreams and ambitions, we therefore complimented each other, and decided we could promote our jewellery together.” Through doing extensive research, Gurusamy found that their trade had not only been there since the time of Ancient Greece, but that some of the technology used in South India had actually been taken from European history, and vice-versa. “We were quite fascinated,” he says. “For example, take cameo designs. You would see this worn by the royal family in our country, though the technology for making these pieces was taken from the Italian and Greek designers. So we thought, why don’t we bring it all back again? Why don’t we renew this?” From here came the idea to “knowledge-share” between the two cultures, and bring in expertise from Italian artisans, who would spend some time with the goldsmiths back in Coimbatore.
Gurusamy’s interest in other cultures comes somewhat from extensive travelling. “Everywhere I’ve travelled, I’ve tried to explore the jewellery side of where I’m going, and connect with the artisans, and discuss with them their techniques and craft. So I found a lot of inspiration from all over the world, I suppose.” With this view, Gurusamy Goldsmiths hopes to forge other trans-cultural bonds across the globe, sharing knowledge with others, and bringing global traditions into the modern era of jewellery.
What’s next for the group? “Looking ahead, we are trying to contact indigninous groups in Mexico, as we love the designs found in their culture,” Gurusamy concludes. “We’d love to work on hybrid designs with them, and use designs and techniques from both parties. We also want to bring in new generation designers in the UK – young, new talent, the future of the industry, into our processes, so we can see these traditional pieces continue to evolve under them.”