This is an excerpt from Heritage Retailers of Calcutta: 1785 to 1950, by Ashish J. Sanyal, published by Notion Press. The author has shared stories of the oldest shop in individual categories, as well as those that reinvented themselves to remain relevant. Read more about the selection process here.
1880 – SATRAMDAS DHALAMAL, Queens Mansion, 12J Park Street, Kolkata – 700071
Raj Mahtani, the 4th generation of the Satramdas Dhalamal family, has re-visioned his 137-year-old family business and in doing so has put Calcutta on the world map for bridal jewellery. “We have the finest craftsmen in Calcutta. Several of our customers from different parts of India fly to Calcutta to do their wedding shopping at Satramdas Dhalamal,” says Raj. The future looks bright with Raj betting on bespoke jewellery for the “Great Indian Wedding,”
After college, Raj spent nine years in Antwerp, where he learned about diamonds and the jewellery business and then returned to Calcutta to take up the family business. Satramdas Dhalamal today is a design-driven jewellery house with Raj as its chief designer. He creates jewellery by blending the best of the west and east. He also has his pulse on what the young Indian bride wants. His designs use rubies, emeralds, and diamonds with the traditional gold, which he tones down/dulls to give it the look of antique gold — “No more garish bright gold” says Raj. He is planning a new store in Mumbai’s fashionable and upmarket Kemps Corner, which he has branded as “Raj Mahtani Calcutta”.
A necklace from the store
Satramdas Dhalamal’s journey has been a long and eventful one. The business was started by Raj’s great grandfather Dhalamal who came to Calcutta in 1880 from Sind, now in Pakistan, and opened the first shop on Park Street where Moulin Rouge is located today. A few years later, the shop was moved across the road to its present location in Queens Mansion, built by the Gaulston family in 1905. Satramdas Dhalamal were the first tenants of Queens Mansion.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Raj’s grandfather Daulat Ram would pack jewellery into trunks and take a train journey with his staff which lasted three weeks. The party would visit all the maharajas and princely states selling their jewellery and taking orders for more.
Designs use rubies, emeralds, and diamonds with the traditional gold, which is toned down to give it the look of antique gold
Raj, a mature thought leader of the industry, says:
“Our country is so rich in jewellery-making that we should set up training centres for young people to learn the art of making jewellery. The present craftsmen are getting old and every effort should be made to ensure that their children remain in the business. Machine finished jewellery and 3D printing are all very well but it is not the same thing as hand-crafted jewellery.”
Raj Mahtani, the fourth generation of the Satramdas Dhalamal family, has re-visioned his 137-year-old family business
Recently redesigned with taste and understated elegance, Satramdas Dhalamal could be a high-end jewellery shop in any European capital. Their well-trained staff have come from the hospitality and travel trade, and recently they have appointed a person from the IT industry. “People no longer need to meet me, I am now redundant in my own shop” says Raj. But it has freed him to focus on the development and expansion of Raj Mahtani Calcutta. A true son of the city.
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