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Stringing Goan summers

Bernd Baumgartner landed in Goa for a relative's wedding when he was 22, fell in love with the place, and stayed put to make exotic jewellery



Bernd Baumgartner: `I look at women's ears, necks, and hands for inspiration.'

IF YOU'RE one who falls for traditional Indian jewellery — strung with rubies, jade, gold beadlings, and rare pendants, combed from nooks and crannies of the country — you must meet Bernd Baumgartner.

A rather strange name you wouldn't associate with Indian jewellery. But Bernd's jewellery is as romantic as his own story. A German technical designer who worked on machines and engines, Bernd landed in Goa for a relative's wedding when he was 22, fell in love with the place, and never went back!

Today, at 50, he goes around the country on his Enfield or drives his jeep to Bangalore, Jaipur, Kolhapur, and other such places hunting for pieces of jewellery — old and new, tribal and traditional, silver and gold, from traders and pawn-brokers. He takes them back to his store near Calangute Beach to string them together. He's named the shop Endless Summer because "it's 365 days of holiday in Goa, specially at Calangute".

When he landed young in Goa, he used his enterprise to source stuff from all over the country and sell it in European flea markets through friends who had shops there.

"Then I started with buying and selling jewellery at Saturday flea markets in Goa. One day, it just comes to a point where you start making your own jewellery. I specialise in stringing jewellery on to a stainless-steel nylon coated wire imported from America," explains Bernd, who is at Kahawa in Bangalore to hold interactive sessions with anyone who wants to get jewellery made. "I like to combine old and new designs with an Indian touch," he says, pointing to a beautiful piece that has an antique gold gopuram-shaped pendant on it, amidst a string of jade and gold. And his pieces cost anywhere between Rs. 300 and Rs. 60,000.

Bernd strings together bracelets, necklaces, anklets, and pieces for Feng-Shui and Vaastu too! Married to a Goan, Bernd says he started with the fabric business and his wife was into tailoring. Then he moved on to embroidery and finally landed with jewellery. "It just fit fine with my love for travelling," he says.

He heads to Jaipur for precious and semi-precious stones like rubies, emeralds, sapphires, comes to Bangalore for old silver and gold in Raja Market, and journeys to Hubli and Gadag to buy 23-karat gold beads. An ear-top bugdi can transform, in his hands, to a small lower-ear stud or a Tibetan Lama's prayer bell can find expression in silver earrings and pendants. "I look at women's ears, necks, and hands for inspiration," he laughs. He also re-strings and restores old jewellery that may have worn out or redesign an old chain to look different, if you're bored of wearing it the same way.

Bernd can be reached at Kahawa, Kareem Towers, Cunningham Road (next to Café Coffee Day) from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. till May 29. Phone: 22088004.

B.K.

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