I met the Delhi-based designer between her jewellery showcase at PAD Paris and the upcoming presentation at Couture in Las Vegas; two prestigious fairs which carry a weight of tremendous reputation for displaying only the very best jewels and most creative artisan designers.
“I don’t come from a family of jewellers; I am the first, so I feel that jewellery was an internal calling and that it found me. I was inspired by a friend to take the GIA and then FGA gemmology courses, and through learning I fell deeply in love with gemstones and the jewellery making process, particularly the wax carving – which to me was like an exquisite version of sculpture,” says Neha whilst showing me images of her wax carvings.
“My family is from Northern India, near Delhi, and after studying I had to convince my father to allow me to pursue my career. My family didn’t want me to move away and live alone, 20 years ago it was so much more traditional.”
Neha Dani is a jewellery artist in the truest sense of the term. Her masterpieces are crafted in a way which is rare: she begins her 3 dimensional creations with a wax model which she painstakingly creates for each piece herself. Being heavily involved in every stage of the jewellery making process, she sometimes tweaks the design during creation, or otherwise may change it completely for a version that feels more complete.
There are several common themes running through Neha’s jewellery – which is so complex and considered that it is hard to summarise without hyperbole – chiefly: organic forms, volume, vibrancy and fluidity. Whether a piece has been inspired by autumnal leaves, pink spring flowers, dancing girls, or sea life from the great barrier reef, Neha’s jewellery is often a riot of colour.
“I think that my rebellious nature in the way that I left India to study gems and pursue my dream is reflected in my designs, such as the unconventional mix of bold colours which are displayed in the rhodium pieces. These techniques are available to us, so I don’t understand why designers shy away from using them. Why are we resisting?”
The Indian born designer refuses to step back from exploring unorthodox materials and gemstones too. It is truly the mark of a jeweller who is in love with gemstones when they sacrifice a larger market appeal for the greater cause of beauty: “Not everything in life can be designed thinking about the masses of consumers who will wear it, you have to design for the love and beauty of the idea which you have. I think that as a designer you have a responsibility to bring something unique and beautiful into the world, which is the most perfect version of your vision that you can achieve without compromise,” asserts Neha.
One wonderful example of the designer’s ethos is the ‘Dancing Girl’ earrings. The ‘skirts’ – created in 18k white gold – have been crafted to perfectly mimic the fleeting, ephemeral joy felt in a moment of youth and freedom. “The skirts are fluttering up and down, rippling, and it moves in this amazing way due to the articulation and malleability which we gave to the piece. I love working with jewellery with lots of layers; I feel that these layers are like emotions, they are fluid, they may change and be constantly in flux.”
For all of the philosophical thought that has gone into Neha Dani’s creative process, the simple drive to create happiness through her jewellery is what proves to be the greatest motivation, “I make bold statement pieces, so that when someone wears them they stand out and feel special, like she’s the most special person in the room.”