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   East meets West in London’s Green Street jewellery quarter
    By Tom Wildhern

LONDON, August 17, 2008 – South Asian and Western styles blend harmoniously in London’s up-and-coming jewellery quarter on Green Street.

Green Street, in one of the most depressed areas of east London, is a long avenue crammed with shoppers milling in and out of fashionable sari boutiques, curry houses and Bollywood DVD outlets. A few dozen jewellers offer necklaces and bangles in 22-carat yellow gold and gemstones, as well as designer and costume jewels, for British Asian weddings and parties.

Green Street jewellers have banded together into an association and are uniting to develop their own brand, in order to take advantage of the 2012 London Olympics.

Eastern style blends with Western design here as the modern British Asian woman is increasingly anglicised, and influenced by global TV culture and Bollywood.

“Jewellery – fine jewellery and costume jewellery – has been a massive growth area, as women have wanted to accessorise more carefully,” says Jayant Raniga of PureJewels on 290-292 Green Street.

Diamonds are a dynamic growth area for affluent British Asian women, while traditional 22-carat gold jewellery remains steadily in demand, jewellers say.   

As the British Asian community has grown richer, due to their entrepreneurial spirit and dynamism, brides are now insisting on having a full diamond jewellery set amongst their jewels, rather than just the 22-carat gold from ancient times, says John Jacob, marketing manager of Joyalukkas on 284 Green Street.

Some British Asians choose Green Street to shop for diamond studs for young children.

On Green Street, jewellery fuses with fashion. Women take newly purchased saris to jewellers where sales assistants -- with an expert eye -- match fabric to jewel.

New materials blend with traditional styles.

Kyles at 100 Green Street displays intricate contemporary South Asian jewellery designs in a profusion of colours, innovatively made from Swarovski crystals.

In the bridal lounge downstairs, designer Nisha Dadi inspects saris brought in by British Asian women and matches them with jewels which, with price points of a few hundred pounds each, are an exciting alternative to 22-carat gold and diamonds.

Jewellery styles on Green Street suit both Indian and Pakistani tastes.

Pakistani bridal necklaces in 22-carat gold tend to include gemstones, such as rubies and sapphires, while many Indian brides prefer necklaces made just of gold, featuring very intricate designs, said Mazafar Chaudhary of Henna Jewellers at 306-308 Green Street.

Wealthy British Pakistanis are developing a taste for platinum rings and diamonds, said Zahid Khan, managing director of Pakeeza Jewellers at 287 Green Street.

Green Street is very quickly becoming one of the fastest growing areas for South Asian shopping in Britain, Jayant Raniga says.

“People can find products on Green Street that they would not find anywhere else in the UK,” added Raniga, whose grandfather immigrated to east London 30 years ago, and still toils in his workshop in his 87th year.  

On Green Street, jewellery items can range from a highly precious colourless diamond necklace for £25,000 ($50,000) to more economical sterling silver and costume jewels. Aluminium bangles cost just 20 pence (40 U.S. cents) each.

GREEN STREET MEETS BOLLYWOOD

Contemporary British Asian jewellery tastes mirror Bollywood and TV culture, and emerge in the succulent designs to be found on Green Street.

Bollywood actress Bhoomika Chawla opened Joyalukkas’s shop on Green Street to a fanfare of local publicity in 2006.

Recent Bollywood movies such as Devdas and Jodha Akhbar, both starring Aishwarya Rai, set the trend for South Asian jewellery style – and have determined the current flamboyant tone, Raniga says.

Devdas, a Bollywood love story, glitters with a fabulous display of sari-clad Indian women wearing brightly coloured bangles, necklaces and hair pieces in precious gold and diamonds.

 These types of jewellery are to be found all along Green Street.

Green Street jewellers also offer Western designs to suit increasingly globalised Asian tastes, such as slender white gold and platinum bridal rings.

“Platinum for wedding rings is a huge growth area on Green Street,” Raniga says.

Green Street also shows great respect for Hindu and Muslim tradition.

Muslim men are not allowed to wear gold rings, and so jewellers such as Joyalukkas and PureJewels offer silver or palladium wedding bands.

LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS

Green Street jewellers see the London 2012 Olympics as a prime opportunity to boost their branding -- and sales.

“We want people to come here and buy jewels during the Olympics,” Raniga says.

The Olympics site at Stratford is just 15 minutes away by public transport.

The building of the Green Street brand is also an opportunity to regenerate the local  economy of Newham borough, one of the most depressed in London, jewellers say.

PROMOTING YOUNG DESIGN TALENT

Green Street jewellers believe that tastes constantly evolve, and so they are encouraging the work of jewellery design graduates of Newham College.

Young graduates’ latest designs are on display in glass cases at Silver Statements, a silver jewellery shop on Green Street next to PureJewels and costume jeweller Bees.

“Every single student who graduates has showcase space,” Raniga says.

“It gives them a platform to move forward.”

A recent tour of the jewellers on Green Street illustrated the variety of designs that can be found here.

Joyalukkas caters almost exclusively to British Asians, Hindus and Muslims, for weddings and parties, using a selection of 22-carat gold and diamond jewellery. It also sells chunky yellow gold bracelets, popular among so-called “mahogany brides” -- Britons of Caribbean origin.

Jeram Jewellers at 240 Green Street, specialists in 22-carat gold and diamond jewellery, has a collection of jewels influenced by French style, inspired by the family’s previous history in Madagascar, a former French colony.

Satyan Jewellers at 220 Green Street has its own diamond jewellery gallery, presenting a choice of classic designs such as a Cleopatra style necklace in white diamonds, as well as elaborate 22-carat South Asian gold necklaces featuring fused rubies and other gemstones for British Asian weddings.

Shoppers on Green Street say they are impressed by the wide choice available here.

Imme Chowdhury, in her 50s, was shopping at costume jeweller Bees for a black necklace to match her black net sari, to wear at a show.

“Indian style is very fashionable today,” she says.

“If you want to buy something Indian, you should come to Green Street.”