For someone whose childhood was spent in the Nizam’s city — Hyderabad, with its rich cultural heritage, Malini Vachani Akerkar’s appreciation for jewels has been innate. Combining her two cities — the grandeur of Hyderabad, and the art deco personality of Mumbai — restaurateur, artist, interior stylist, and now jewellery designer, Akerkar, has recently launched a limited edition of vintage art deco collection under her own eponymous label.
Akerkar spent a year putting together the 70 odd pieces that make up the collection — earrings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets and rings. She’s quick to say that she sees herself more as a curator than as an original designer. Akerkar’s passion for jewellery began at a young age when she was exposed to her mother’s Kadam collection. “I was fascinated with tribal jewellery from Africa, South-Africa, and India. Over the years I collected books, furniture, art, and jewellery that were art deco in style, and my line is based on already existing designs,” she elaborates. As we speak, Akerkar exclaims that the buildings she’s currently passing by at Marine Drive, have the same structural elements and persona much like several of her pieces.
Akerkar’s vintage European jewellery collection uses chunky semi-precious stones, and hydro thermal gemstones, set in silver and alloys of white gold. “Some even have slight hints of my South-Indian roots,” Akerkar says laughingly. For her, the longevity of these pieces lies in that they can be passed on as heirlooms. The line is priced between ₹ 20,000- 1.5 lakhs, and uses stones that, she claims, don’t tarnish even after 10-12 years.
Having grown-up in an ‘artsy’ family brimming with graphic designers, jewellers, and painters, Akerkar was always drawn to the creative side of things. Even though she studied microbiology at the Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine in London, she was the kind of person who, “went to a museum and cried.” After meeting restaurateur-husband, Rahul Akerkar, her artistic side was further fuelled. She dabbled in restaurant interiors, attention to detail with crockery and cutlery, presentation, and even painting a few walls herself. “I don’t believe the interiors of a place overtake its food, but for us there has to be a synergy between the two,” she explains.
The designer shares how she’s in two completely different frames of mind when painting, and designing jewellery. For her, painting is pure abstraction, while her jewellery has a more solid form. “I’m currently obsessing over painting textures, and colours of decay in architecture. The peeling and rusting of buildings in cities across the world,” says Akerkar. The studio is a sacred place she visits at night, along with her music and wine. “When I’m in the zone, I can even paint ten to 12 hours in a day, and not get tired, but I definitely need my music,” she laughs.
Akerkar’s time with architects Bijoy Jain, Sameera Rathod, and Kapil Gupta to name a few, has inspired her. One of Akerkar’s most valued art deco pieces, is her engagement ring that belonged to Rahul’s great-grandmother who was German. “It represents a time when Rahul’s family being Jewish, had fled to America, and the history they took with them,” shares Akerkar.
Malini Akerkar’s vintage and art deco jewellery collection is available at Ensemble, Kemps Corner