The Element of Surprise
Fine jewelry is often described as precious. Nearly untouchable, save for the occasional evening out: say, a holiday party or a charity gala. But Munnu Kasliwal believed that every piece from The Gem Palace should be worn as early in the day as one likes — and often. And that each setting should not only delight the wearer, but also surprise her.
In most circumstances, a ring is a ring. A necklace is a necklace. A pin is a pin. But Munnu’s goal was to create a narrative around each necklace, ring and pin, so that they were not just those things. The proud owner of a Munnu The Gem Palace jewel should be able to tell the story behind her treasure. Munnu’s work reflected his desire to bring playfulness to fine jewelry. There is almost always an unexpected element.
Munnu’s work reflected his desire to bring playfulness to fine jewelry.
The most straightforward example might be his riff on the poison, or locket, ring. Invented hundreds of years ago to store a loved one’s lock of hair, actual poison to ward off unwelcome attention, or simply perfume, Munnu chose to fill his poison rings with loose stones. One dome is brimming with faceted aquamarine stones, another with diamonds. The gems jingle around and could fall out at any moment by unhinging the latch. That casual approach to something so scarce and valuable is part of Munnu’s message that, while these pieces were special, they didn’t have to be so serious.
The hints could also be quite cheeky and flirty. A series with hidden kama sutra positions, for instance, became an immediate bestseller. One, a diamond ring fashioned after a turtle, is inscribed with a naughty illustration underneath its back. The kama sutra reappears again on the inside of an emerald locket.
There are subtler twists as well. The tassel pendants, which Munnu began designing in the early aughts with great success, detach from their chains, allowing the owner to wear the tassel as a pin, or strung onto another necklace.
And then there is the Falcon Box set. Made of rose-cut and circular-cut diamonds set in Indo-Russian-style gold and silver work, the box transforms into a glittering pair of cuff bracelets when one pops off the lid.
But perhaps the most liberating piece Munnu ever designed was the classic triple-line diamond necklace, which can be unhooked and hooked together to create at least eight different styles. It proved that the jeweler had no intention of dictating how the jewels should be worn: as a necklace, a belt, a headdress. Munnu could create the foundation, but it was up to the owner to give it life. In some way, these incredibly extravagant objects are also incredibly practical. The idea is that, by giving each setting a personality, the owner will be less likely to relegate it to the vault.