Woman at holi festival

The exuberant festival of Holi is celebrated in parts of India with throwing colored pigments and powders and dousing others with colored water. An amazing sight!

I experienced it first hand in the early 1980s in Bombay, now called Mumbai, when I traveled there for diamond buying trips. The sheer joy of seeing gorgeous brilliant color in abundance on the streets and parks is unforgettable. I’m told that the holiday has ancient roots – but now marks the celebration of the beginning of a new season, and the completion of the winter harvest.


Esther sorting rough diamonds

I have wonderful memories of my many trips to India. The diamond industry has been long established in the Bombay area, in addition to the gem centers in Rajasthan, as are jewelry making traditions throughout the country.

I was completely unprepared for the sights and sounds of India, it was different than anywhere else I had traveled.

Fortunoff Fine Jewelry was a pioneer in buying directly from the source. Our team frequented  the diamond trading bourse in Bombay. Heads swiveled when I walked through the area, because foreign buyers at that time were almost all male.

On my first trips I was given tours of the cutting, polishing and sorting factories. You see me here looking at rough diamonds. Then you can see a bit of the painstaking process of polishing, cleaning and sorting of the small diamonds. I was pleased that women were trained as sorters.

Our head diamond buyer was a patient teacher who showed me how to choose and evaluate the smallest diamonds. We looked at parcels of polished diamonds to be used in designs from Italy or those we made in our own workshops in NYC.


Diamond cutting Diamond sorting It was amazing to see the growth in family-owned companies over the decade of the 1980s. The companies we worked with were multi-generational family businesses, and ushering in their next generation who were often university educated “abroad” and returning to help bring the family firm into a new, more global era.

This resonated especially for me, following my own journey as the third generation of my family's business.

Of course, India has so much to see and so much history, above and beyond "just" diamonds. On one trip, we celebrated a special birthday and company expansion and were treated to a fantastic party as well as special ceremonies. After the business portion of the trip, my husband and I were lucky enough to spend a few days of guided tours, seeing different handcraft workshops for weaving of fabrics and rugs.

weaving colorful yarn

Our trip ended in Kashmir with rest & relaxation on a "houseboat", basically a floating guesthouse. Serene, beautiful and never to be forgotten.

houseboat in Kashmir