Munnu Kasliwal, 54; jeweler built a global empire
This story is from BostonGlobe.com, the only place for complete digital access to the Globe.
NEW YORK — From an old mansion on Mirza Ismail Road in Jaipur, India, the jeweler Munnu Kasliwal presided over an unlikely global empire. To the public Mr. Kasliwal’s name was not nearly as familiar as those of Cartier or Harry Winston, but his family-owned emporium, the Gem Palace, has for decades been a valued secret passed along via word of mouth by international connoisseurs.
Collected by European royalty, Italian designers, Arab sheiks, international socialites, and the merely moneyed, who could find his designs for sale at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Neue Galerie in Manhattan, as well as at Barneys New York, Mr. Kasliwal’s baubles were also favorites of celebrities, whom he cultivated with unassuming charm.
Stars like Nicole Kidman were drawn to the dazzling and sometimes monumental gems
An eclecticist, Mr. Kasliwal drew inspiration from geomorphic Modernist forms and India’s rich, though occasionally fusty, jewelry traditions.
Mr. Kasliwal developed his affinity for nature’s rarest minerals in childhood, when he was given sacks of semiprecious gemstones to play with, and he readily shared his delight with visitors to the Gem Palace in India and his velvet-upholstered showroom on East 74th Street in Manhattan.
Mr. Kasliwal also reveled in sleuth work, pursuing great stones at salesrooms and gem fairs, as well as in now-depleted treasuries of princely families.
‘‘That is why people shouldn’t hide their jewels away in vaults or save them for special occasions,’’ Mr. Kasliwal said. Once freed from the grasp of the earth, he explained, ‘‘gems only come alive in the light.’’