By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, Oct 9 (IANS) : Call it the curse of the Covid-19 crisis and the surge in gold prices that has driven skilled artisans making exquisite kundan and meena jewellery in Jaipur to take up other jobs. Some of them have shifted to driving cabs, while others sell sarees online to earn their livelihood as the jewellery market seems to be on a downward spiral owing to the Coronavirus.
Jitendra Soni, an adept artisan making Kundan Meena jewellery, told IANS,”I have started driving a cab to earn two meals a day. There are just no orders since March. With two sons, a wife and a father to look after, I am searching for a decent job so that there is a continuous flow of income. I am exhausted as there are no jobs available. Even in a taxi, the going isn’t easy since hardly anybody wants to travel these days.”
Till last year, Soni was getting regular work as an artisan making Kundan meena jewellery. However, the orders have dried up now. With gold price surging, people don’t want to buy jewellery, he says.
Manoj, another jeweller based in Jaipur, has started selling sarees online.
“Ours is a family business of jewellery manufacturing. We used to collect orders from market and manufactured jewellery. However, this time, there are no orders and therefore, we have to choose other professions,” says Manoj. “However, we want to return to the jewellery profession since is no match to the legacy of a skill that is done by hand,” adds Manoj.
Gopal Soni, engaged in kundan meena work, is also searching for alternative avenues to meet his daily needs. “Since March, the kind of work we are getting is to stitch a dismantled nose ring or earring. It doesn’t suffice and hence we are searching for alternative avenues as no one knows when shall this crisis end,” he says.
Rajkumar Soni, another manufacturer engaged in Kundan Meena jewellery, says, “Many of our trained artisans have left Jaipur, which is known as the Gems City. We don’t know if they will ever return. The big jewellers who used to pass on orders to us have been residing in farmhouses to prevent themselves from Covid-19.”
Clearly, the market is plummeting and people are driven to take extreme measures. Recently, ther ewas a mass suicide in which four family members of a jewellery maker hanged to death, adds Manoj.
Jaipur is known to be a hub for the gems and jewellery trade and is being considered as an export market for Kundan Meena and studded jewellery. Recently, the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council disclosed that “During April-July 2020, Gems and Jewellery exports have declined by (-)50.36 % y-o-y to US$ 4.11 billion as compared to US$8.27 billion registered during the same period previous year,”
Even the exports growth of Cut & Polished Diamonds went in negatives from April to July 2020 registering -46.48% decline with Polished Lab Grown Diamonds registering -23.49% fall, coloured Gemstones (-68.97%) , Gold Jewellery (-73.62%) and other jewellery products also witnessing a decline. This is an indication of the contracted manufacturing activities, it said.
Kundam Meena jewellery makers said that it takes at least a month to create one necklace. At a time when orders have dried up, they are not optimistic about Diwali or the marriage season either.
However there is a glimmer of hope. Says Jewellers Association president Sanjay Kala, “The market is changing and we expect a growth story coming in from the beginning of the Navratri season.”