The first gemstone that captured Vihari Sheth’s imagination was an oval-shaped vivid yellow diamond from South Africa, just over 2ct, that she caught sight of at a jewellery fair in Hong Kong. It was the first time she laid eyes on a vivid diamond and the rock’s colour, scintillation and brilliance so mesmerised the then-15-year-old that her father, Rajesh Sheth, bought the gem for her. “Like the colours of a sunrise, this was a special colour and in a moment, she decided she wanted to have it,” the doting father says of that pricey purchase. “A father’s first love is always the daughter.”
Today, Vihari is the founder of retail brand Vihari Jewels, for which the 30-year-old designs and sells breathtaking jewellery creations, while Rajesh Sheth, 54, runs his own company in Singapore and focuses on the business-to-business aspect of the industry, procuring roughs and producing finished stones. The fourth generation of a diamond trading family that traces its roots to Palanpur, a Gujarati city known for its expert diamond merchants, Vihari grew up in Singapore surrounded by the knowledge of precious stones — her mother, Manisha, oversees quality control for Vihari Jewels and her 27-year-old brother, Kunal, sources and cuts diamonds.
Vihari’s affinity with diamonds was born long before she graduated from the Gemological Institute of America at 21 and began a formal six-month training course under Rajesh’s tutelage.
At the age of four, Vihari was already a regular visitor to her father’s office, where from fiddling with the sorting and measurement instruments he had, she moved on to playing with diamonds, later learning to differentiate the stones by shape and size. By her mid-teens, Vihari was accompanying her father on his visits to jewellery fairs in Singapore and abroad, from Las Vegas to Basel to Vicenza in Italy, making three to four trips a year on average. “That’s where we always see stones and trends, so I would just go with him and he’d explain everything to me — it was a playground,” Vihari recounts. “Our visits to trade fairs were where we bonded the most, until my brother took my place,” she adds with a laugh.
Rajesh’s keen eye for spectacular stones never fails to impress Vihari, who recalls with perfect clarity a stunning pink diamond he selected 10 years ago. “He foresees trends very well, he understands the rarity of the gems and what’s scarce, so he knows how to pick them out,” she explains. And for all her design prowess, Vihari is humble about where her expertise stands next to her father’s. “Understanding [a diamond] and the science behind it, it’s something you have to have within,” she explains.
In spite of their shared interest in diamonds and gemstones, the pair prefer to keep their work separate, choosing to complement each other — he chooses exceptional stones and she shows them off at their best with her jewellery designs — rather than work together. Father and daughter were both born in the Year of the Tiger, Vihari adds, a Chinese zodiac sign associated with boldness, confidence and a tinge of competitiveness. Vihari Jewels, she emphasises, is entirely up to her direction. “We’re fixated on who does what, so I never interfere in his diamond-cutting or shape and he never interferes in jewellery design,” she says. “Probably the only argument we’ve ever had was whether [the design] should be elaborate or classic, so the compromise would be to come to a middle ground, but because we don’t work together, we’ve never had to fight about it.”
But there is strength in numbers, and working alongside family proves to be an advantage. Vihari Jewels is looking to expand from her by-appointment-only Ngee Ann City office and set up a boutique to serve walk-in clients in Singapore’s Orchard area within two years. The brand is also bolstering its presence in Hong Kong, where Kunal will relocate to in a few months. Vihari’s brother also oversaw the acquisition of an alluvial, or water deposit, mine in South Africa last year, from which rough diamonds of 5ct to 50ct are being sourced for future jewellery creations.
And up next for the designer is an exclusive 20-piece jewellery collection featuring coloured diamonds, sourced from various sites over the past few years and cut by Kunal in New York, slated to be launched for Vihari Jewels’ 10th anniversary this year.
From the start, Rajesh recognised potential in Vihari — “I know my kids, where they can reach and what goals they’re going to achieve,” he says. Describing Vihari as a confident, intelligent daughter who made up her mind, upon graduating from high school, that she would join the jewellery industry, Rajesh has no reservations about leaving business decisions entirely up to her. “If anything goes wrong, I never blame my kids, I blame myself,” he says. “Any parent should have trust in their children and believe in them.”