Mon-Pri, Fine Gems and Diamond Jewellery, a treasure trove of exquisite designs Barbara Kingstone January 19, 2011 Asia, India, Indulgences, Jewellry When Bhai Balbir Singh retired and looking forward to this time of his life, little did he know that he would soon be working again. And this time it would be for one of his daughters. For years, whenever I have visited Delhi, I would head to the out of the city’s centre to a smart, chic shopping area, Santuschi. Single houses, all differently designed and sitting on acres of gardens, are shops with the finest merchandise from cashmere sweaters and scarves, to home ware, silk and always in India gems. In fact, it’s difficult to avoid finding a jewellery shop. They are everywhere. But this day I made a decision. . Passed serious VIP houses and embassies, just passed the horse track there in a gated and well guarded area is a shopper’s haven. Never having enough time on past trips, I would quickly scan the pieces, peering at the window and for moments stand in awe of some of the fine design work. On this trip, I was able to create my own time schedule and I finally entered this small, approx. 300 square foot shop. Glass wall cases were filled with choice glimmering baubles as were the counter vitrines. Since Mrs. Bath had become a well known designer among the affluent community in New Delhi, she felt her creations had just that bit of difference and she would fare well in London. Only time will tell but I predict she’s right-on.Sitting behind one was the distinguished, white beard and mustached, elegant Bhai Balair Singh. His daughter Manpriya Bath had left him in charge of this boutique while she spent time in London, England where she is about to open another shop. Her jewellery designs are so in demand in bustling Delhi and sensing that the English and tourists would appreciate her often ornate designs but also edgy designs, headed to London. However, Singh was the perfect spokesman and surprisingly, he admits, learning on the job of which he seemed to be very knowledgeable. “We don’t work with white for earrings. White gold has some nickel in the mix and many women are allergic to that metal,” he tells me authoritatively. Singh’s knowledge has him occasionally sources stones in Jaipur where Mrs. Bath buys most of her cache. “Coloured stones are our strength,” says Singh as he hands me the most popular design in his store, open ended bracelets that aren’t unique but do have heavily jeweled endings which are different from other copy-cats. The small shop is very popular with brides and it’s on occasions like a wedding that not only the bride is done up the nth in gems but so are the guests. Casual, at these occasions have no meaning as the bride changes not only her gowns but her jewellery several times during the celebrations. And the status conscious women head to Mon-Pre for times like that. The designs do make a major statement. Sotheby’s and Christies have also been known to have done well auctioning off Mon-Pri’s designs and as Singh told me, “at most acceptable prices.” In fact, for the quality of the gemstones and their designs, the price tags aren’t startling. Most are worked in 18k but in India, using 22k is very common.As I sit there, I notice that the small boutique seems to attract a younger than expect clientele. Their chauffeured cars waiting for them at the gate. Two very stylish, western dressed Indian women, tall, slim and young, fondle several pieces with a special interest in several styles of the chandelier earrings; one was dripping with small emeralds and diamonds. Others encircled with diamonds also attract attention. They are not the traditional Indian settings. But not all tradition is lost. Bath knows the importance of the gems of the Maharanis of the past and integrates some styles with elaborate aplomb which isn’t lost on the wealthy locals. However, there are many with more contemporary aspects. Stumbling on this small enclave hidden behind flowering bushes made me realize that in India, knowing where to go is a must. Here logos, designer names and finding design integrity and the genuine article are essentials. At Mon-Pri there is no doubt about the reliability.There is a variety of coloured stones so that any colour of choice is available. Certainly that’s true with diamonds too. And although most pieces are made with the precious gemstones, there are flashes of bold coral neckpieces.