Bucket hats, shutter shades and chunky sneakers – trends come and go, but masks may remain. As high-end designers across the world are cashing in on this trend with monochromes, elegant embroideries and quirky prints, Indian jewellers have jumped on the bandwagon with signature bejeweled masks.
In Coimbatore, a goldsmith by the name Radhakrishnan Sundaram Acharya wanted to create awareness about wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For this, he decided to design masks with gold and silver threads. The process is not easy, he explains. “First, big gold rods have to be drawn out to 0.06 millimetres thickness so that they can be woven together,” he says. This allows the metal to be flexible and makes it easy to sanitise. Once, the metal has been woven, the layer is knitted onto a cloth mask and then polished to complete the look. “The entire process takes around five to seven days,” he adds. This 18-carat gold mask sold by RK Jewel Tech (Acharya’s store) comes at a price of Rs. 275,000, while the 92.5 sterling silver mask costs around Rs. 15,000.
“The customer’s wish is my command,” says Acharya. For instance, if a person wants gold plating on the silver mask or wants the gold mask to have an engraved logo, then Acharya will do the customisations. While he has received nine orders within a week, Acharya is also pondering on new ideas such as replacing the elastic with chains and hooks, and plans to seek IPR for his product.
Meanwhile, in Surat, a bride’s wish to match her mask with her wedding attire led to the design of a new range of gold and diamond studded masks by D. Khushalbhai Jewellers. “Nowadays, people are selling masks with sarees and dress materials, so we thought why not sell the mask like a jewellery piece,” says Dipak Choksi, owner of the store. To design and complete the first mask, it took around 20 days. “We had to attach a cloth that matched the bride’s lehenga onto a three-ply mask and then stud it with diamonds,” says Choksi, recalling the process. But once accustomed, the workers are now able to complete a mask within five days.
In his store, Choksi has bejeweled masks ranging from Rs.78,000 to Rs.900,000, and has already sold 14 pieces. While the lower priced masks are bedazzled with American diamonds, the more expensive ones have real diamonds, and yellow and white gold pieces in intricate designs. Weighing around 15-20 grams, these masks are definitely heavier than the normal ones, but Choksi says that the weight is bearable as the masks are to be worn once in a while during an occasion or function. He plans to expand the range by adding pieces that are studded with pearls, rubies and platinum next.
While one bride’s wish has given us spangled masks, another’s has made possible ‘shape-shifting’ masks. The second asked for a mask-cum-necklace from Pune’s Ranka Jewellers. “When one of our regular customers asked for a multipurpose mask, our craftsmen immediately got to work,” says Manav Ranka, partner in the jewellery store. The bride was presented with three options – mask-cum-necklace, -bracelet and -broach – and she liked the first option the best. After 15 days, the Turkish design necklace made of pure 22 carat gold was finally ready. “It is laced on top of a mask and can be easily detached to be worn as it is,” says Ranka. This piece, that will set you back by Rs.650,000, comes with a compact UV sterilisation box as well. The store is anticipating more orders as soon as the lockdown is lifted and is also working on new designs to make a full range of jewel-laced masks, says Ranka.
Now, one does wonder if these masks are good buys. According to the jewellers, the masks should be looked at as future investments, and once the pandemic is over, the metal used in them can be sold or recast into new jewellery pieces. “It is just like investing in gold necklace, rings or bangles,” says Choksi.
But, worth the money or not, these masks can definitely be a conversation starter at the quarantine centre or the vaccination camp (whenever it happens).