Q&A with Kastur Jewels

Rajvi Vora on what inspires the designs for Kastur Jewels, the brand heritage and giving back to communities.


What influenced you to create the brand Kastur Jewels?
A passion for old Indian jewellery (very much part of my heritage and ancestry), history, design especially from ancient India, combined with an overall deep interest in the arts, fashion & styling. I am fascinated and intrigued with the lives and ways of royal India dating as far back as the 11th Century.

There are museums and books full of jewellery from this period: It is the most beautiful and inspiring kind of jewellery. Kastur jewels is very much influenced by old antique Indian jewellery, but with a slightly contemporary take making it still relevant for the modern woman. I wanted to bring this part of my culture and heritage to the heart of stylish London.

Giving back to charities seems to be a big part of the business - could you tell us a little more about this?
I worked in international development for many years before I started Kastur Jewels. From working within refugee camps in Northern Kenya & Southern Afghanistan, to addressing maternal mortality issues in Ethiopia. Giving back to humanitarian initiatives was always going to be a key part of any business I would have started. It is essential.

What are the main charities you support?
I support a variety of charities for a number of causes, such as Age UK, Ngong Road Children's Foundation and Raj Saubhag Humanitarian Projects.

Why did you decide to open a store in Marylebone Village?
I love the feel Marylebone has: its independent and individualistic retailers; stylish and classic look; lovely and warm customers with great taste who have an eye for unique pieces and truly appreciate jewellery that has historical inspiration and a story to tell. I have had 'pop up shops' in the village before so I was familiar with the area. All this made it a perfect destination for Kastur Jewels.

Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the pieces?
My ancestry (Oshwal Jains) come from the ancient town of Osian-Jodhpur district in Rajasthan (457 BC) – close to where the most incredible Jain temples of Ranakpur stand proud – historical influences and stories have inspired and fascinated me forever. There is a sense of immense pride in knowing that certain age old methods of craftsmanship and design that we draw heavy inspiration from hail from this part of the world.

As a child I would be fascinated with the jewellery collections my mother, grandmothers and aunts had. Interestingly most of their pieces are still around and within the family, passed down from one generation to the other. Kastur was the name of my late grandmother (a staunch Jain) and aptly meaning “Gift of God”. Its spiritual meaning and innate power was instrumental when I was searching for a fitting name for my brand.

There is also heavy inspiration drawing on historical royal India dating back to the 11th century. Indeed some of our highly skilled artisan’s ancestors were craftsmen for the Royal households; the Maharajah and Maharanis (Kings and Queens) of the time. Fixated by the fairy tale, glamorous and opulent lifestyles that thrived during these times; and my ancestral heritage, history is a fundamental part of each Kasturjewel. Through time memorial, British aristocracy has been known to embrace jewels and design from this period. Kasturjewels revives design that has been appreciated here for centuries, but with a hint of modern classic!

From the intricate wall carvings and paintings found on 15th century palace walls, to the ornate domes that marked the places of birth and death of Kings and Queens long bygone, to stories from my own ancestry and culture, I have always been intrigued with heritage stories, designs and art. I have built upon these influences together my passion for fashion and styling to create Kasturjewels. Old designs are researched, drawn and tweaked to give them a fashionable contemporary touch that can be worn by the modern woman of substance.

As a trained classical Indian dancer in Kuchipudi (the dance form originated from Andra Pradesh in India – 1st Century BC) I also draw on a lot of old temple jewellery influences, the kind of jewellery classical Indian dancers wear to perform in.

Do you have a favourite ‘range’ from your collection?
A tough one, but the art deco styles, the 1930's inspired pieces and the victorian inspired pieces that are now also stocked at the Victoria & Albert, would be 'favorites' if I had to choose!