Arunashi makes jewels fit for modern-day maharajas. Arun Bohra, an eighth-generation jeweler from Jaipur, India, founded the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based fine jewelry collection with his wife Ashita Shah in 2004. We asked him about his heritage and continuing the tradition for a new generation of jewelry collectors.
What was your childhood like in India, especially growing up in a family of fine jewelers?
It was a much simpler time with lots of sports and outdoor activities and very little television. I was born into the jewelry business, which my family has worked in since 1841, and that’s just the first recorded date. My parents still run a vertical operation from stone cutting to wholesale and retail. I started going to our store after school at the age of 7. Whereas most kids had toys, I’d play around with priceless gems!
Is there an event from that time that particularly stands out?
Yes, when I made my first sale at 10 years old. The salespeople were busy with a big festival, and a German couple asked to see some diamonds. I pulled out four tiny diamonds from the safe, weighed and priced them, and off they went with their $150 purchase. Later, my dad asked if I had made sure they were all the same size, which of course I had no idea about then, having just eyeballed them. To this day, I think that was the impetus for my own collection’s mismatched pieces.
What did you do after graduation?
I spent a decade in Tokyo, where I ran a wholesale office specializing in colored gemstones for my parents’ company.
How did you come to reside in the U.S.?
When my wife and I married, we lived in India but found we had been away too long to really find our groove. Then we tried Tokyo, but Ashita was even more out of water. Since my wife grew up in America, we moved to New York when my collection was picked up by Bergdorf Goodman. A year later, we landed in Los Angeles and have been here ever since.
How often to you return to India?
About six times a year to spend time with family, design, oversee production and play golf.
Describe your design process from the initial idea to the final product.
It begins with two routes, either I design around stones that I fall in love with, or I put a twist on mythology and ancient design. Then I make pencil sketches and choose colors for pieces that are usually unique and almost entirely handmade at my three workshops in India, Italy and Switzerland by top craftsmen that we retrain to make even better.
What has been your greatest achievement career-wise?
It has yet to come.
Who’s your client?
Collectors with sublime taste and a deep appreciation for the arts. They already own basics like diamond solitaire rings and desire something truly unique in style and stones. In short, my collection isn’t for the meek!
What have you learned from them?
They encouraged me to approach jewelry making as an art instead of a business.
What’s your dream scenario in how a woman should wear your jewelry?
With the quiet confidence of wearing sexy lingerie, when only she knows what she is wearing underneath but it gives her an extra spring in her step. I find that confidence very exciting.
You focus on one-offs, but are there connections in your work?
Due to my quirky personality, I favor mismatched earrings, stones set upside down, unusual materials like titanium, carbon fiber and Corian, and little stories within stories.
How long does it take to make a piece of jewelry?
Two months to a couple of years.
What sets you apart from the sea of jewelry designers?
My knowledge of colored stones, and a desire, and more importantly, the follow-through to do things differently and innovatively. Being exposed to so many cultures has also helped a great deal.
What materials interest you in 2013?
Natural pearls like conch, clam, Melo Melo and Gayo de Acha. I will always love emeralds and Paraiba tourmalines, too.
How long has Marissa Collections carried your jewelry, and which pieces should its clients not miss?
More than 4 years. The tsavorite “rock” ring and abstract necklace in abalone are killer!
How often do you visit Naples, and when’s your next time?
Twice annually for 5-6 days. I plan to come the third week of November.
Do you have any big news?
My one-year-old son just started walking. His teeth are coming in, too, so now he’s always trying them out on me!