The Natural World
It is hard to find an element of the natural world from which Munnu Kasliwal did not cull inspiration. He was particularly drawn to the organic shapes and colors of his immediate environs. “He was inspired by anything he saw in nature,” says his eldest son, Siddharth. An interesting flower color or a uniquely shaped branch often became the foundation of a new piece. “Once, he showed me a ladybug and said, ‘this could make for such interesting cufflinks.”
While Munnu traveled the world over, from Bali to Hawaii, it was the Farm House — the Kasliwal family’s home on the outside of Jaipur — where he recharged his energy. There, the petals on a flower transformed into a fire opal drop on an earring, and a branch became a bracelet of twinkling diamonds.
It wasn’t just plant life that captivated him, though. Animals, too, had their place far beyond ladybugs. One of the horses from the farm might end up in a painted motif, and a tortoise could be transformed into a trinket box. Lucky elephants abound. Pigs were made into cufflinks. Earrings fashioned after traditional Mughal lovebirds were designed. And a ring with a pave-diamond bird — made to look like it only just landed on the wearer’s finger — was done in several iterations, including a version that has faceted jewels hanging from the beak. What a meal.
... something so extraordinarily beautiful grew from something as ordinary as muddy earth.
Each plant or animal Munnu played with may have had a meaning, but none more so than the lotus flower, the Gem Palace’s logo and the motif in the Kasliwal family’s unofficial seal. In Buddhism, the lotus is a symbol of fortune, and Munnu embraced that connotation. He also loved the idea that something so extraordinarily beautiful grew from something as ordinary as muddy earth. There were always plenty of lotus-flower pieces floating around, whether it was a pair of drop earrings inlaid with turquoise and lapis lotus blossoms or a pair of chandeliers made with more than 61 carats of vibrantly-colored aquamarine gemstones.
The last piece Munnu designed before his passing in 2012 was a necklace that looked as if it had been plucked from a garden: a diamond vine dotted with emerald berries. Diamond dewdrops lay on each leaf, which gingerly move where the wind takes them. “He had a different eye altogether,” Siddharth says.