A ‘Golden’ Era For Jewellers of The Yesteryear

Coimbatore is known as the jewellery capital of south India. There have been many big and small jewellers who have added to the flavour of the business. Let us try to recall some of them.
Most of the jewellers belonged to the community who worship Goddess Vasavi. However, there were others who enriched alongside. Kirtilal Kalidas Mehta was the most well known amongst them. He established himself in the year 1939 and eventually became a diamond jewellery pioneer. The custom made jewellery from his outlet attracted Zamindars, mill owners and the elite. Many movie artists like Padmini got their diamond oddiyanam made with him. He popularized open-set diamond jewellery in a big way. His firm used drawings and designs of eminent artists for the purpose of serving the customers. The one carat solitaire concept became popular due to his efforts. People began to seek unique designs from Kirtilal. He and his family were responsible for making Coimbatore a diamond destination. The good work of Kirtilal laid a diamond foundation for the future.
S. Vasudeva Rao (K. G. Street) was the jeweller for semi-precious gold studded jewellery. He had an outlet in Chennai too. Vasudeva Rao was famous for his association with Bharatiya Janata Party. His firm was known for its exquisite pearl and coral jewellery. Former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani had enjoyed the hospitality of Vasudeva Rao during their visits to Coimbatore.
Kasthuri Jewellery, Shanmugam grew to become a jeweller by appointment. His high quality custom made Nagas Jewellery and diamond jewellery attracted customers from the southern districts also. One had to make up their mind in order to place the order for he was firm with his dealings. His showroom design was unique and it was made up of a lot of mirrors. Several customers continue to cherish the ornaments purchased in Kasthuri Jewellery. The shop was located at Raja street.
K. P. Subbhian and K. P. Manian of Sri Lakshmi Jewellery rose to become big jewellers. They had shops on Big Bazaar street, Raja street, and Crosscut road. The popular shopping destination Sri Lakshmi Complex was constructed by them and this step made Crosscut road as an important shopping destination. Today several commercial establishments are reaping rich dividends due to the same.
K. P. Subbhian spoke for the rights of Goldsmiths and he popularized the celebration of ‘ViswakarmaJayanthi’. K. P. S. or K. P. Subbhian was known for his good contacts with all important personages. Sri Lakshmi Jewellery was an extremely popular jewellery destination for decades. People continued to remember K. P. Subbhian moving about in his large ambassador station wagon.
K. Ramakrishna Pillai & Sons of K. R.&Sons jewellery worked from Big Bazaar street. They were extremely popular with their jewellery sets and good packaging materials. The six sons, Radhakrishnan, Ramalingam, Lakshmanan, Mani, Shanmugam and Loganathan were very popular with the customers. K. Ramakrishna Pillai was the Vice-president of the Coimbatore Jewellers Association and his first son, Radhakrishnan was the secretary of The Tamil Nadu Jewellers Federation and Coimbatore Jewellers Association. The renovated outlet of K. R. &Sons was declared open by Diwan Bahadur C. S. Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar – The father of modern Coimbatore. A silver lock used for the inauguration was presented to the chief guest and it continues to be preserved even today. The sixth son, K. R. Loganathan was also the Vice-president of the Coimbatore Jewellers Association.
M. R. Meenakshi sundaram Achary was a master Goldsmith and diamond-smith. He was closely associated with the iconic jeweller P. A. Raju Chettiar. Meenakshisundaram used to sport the bhagavathar crop hair style all his life. He was a good friend of the first super star of Tamil cinema, M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. Meenakshisundaram lived in Kottaimedu and worked from Big Bazaar street. A large diamond studded ‘Maangamaalai’ made for the family of P. A. Raju Chettiar can be counted amongst his master pieces. Meenakshisundaram was known for his special poojas.
This diamond-smith designed, worked and sold from his outlet on Big Bazaar street. Meenakshisundaram was also a master engraver and several people continue to preserve filigree work created by him. Several leading lights of the city used to know him personally. Many of them continue to preserve the jewels made by Meenakshisundaram.
The contribution of the above mentioned firms and their founders need to be etched in gold. Coimbatore was put on the jewellery map of the world by P. A. Raju Chettiar and jewellers mentioned in this essay added to the wealth of the city.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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