In conversation with Pratik Shah, founder and creative director at ESTAA

ESTAA creates truly inspiring high jewelry designs and I am thrilled to be speaking with you today!  Can you tell us about ESTAA' s heritage, its key achievements and explain to us your current role within the brand?

Thank you so much for your kind words! I founded Estaa in 2009 with my mother Swati, in Mumbai, India. Estaa seeks to inspire and be inspired by crafting fine jewelry that interweaves ancient wisdom with designs, gemstones and metals rooted in the now. We are an independent family-owned atelier known for transforming traditional stories into contemporary narratives. 

My role in the atelier is very much focused on the creative direction and developing the creative vision for each collection.  We have had many achievements and milestones over time...  In 2018 we worked with Kim Karadashian who beautifully wore our earrings on the cover of VOGUE India. We also had the privilege to craft a special collection in collaboration with the Barbier Mueller Museum in Switzerland. Most of all, our jewelry is regularly acquired by collectors and international jewelry lovers, their renewed loyalty to our creations is the best compliment!

What was the first collection you worked on for ESTAA? Was there a central theme and preferred materials used?  and do you feel that each collection informs the next to some degree?

Indian weddings are legendary, so our first had to be Revival - a collection of ready-to-wear and bespoke jewelry for weddings, engagements and gifts. Revival is born in past milleniums but crafted in the 21st century, and all the jewels are infused with symbols of union, fertility and infinity. The materials used for this collection are traditional - Gold, Silver, Diamonds and Gemstones; and sometimes untraditional - titanium, wood and black gold. 
Collections are our observations and hopes and they are always overlapping.

Many of your designs feature stunning oversized flowers, butterflies and other animals. Nature is a key part of your collections and your rendering of it is pretty magical!  with creations often scattered with diamonds and bright colors.   How do you see Indian heritage weaved into each creation?

There are 33 millions Gods and Goddesses in India - and so nearly everything is considered to be sacred in some way. For example, the Hibiscus flower is offered to Goddess Kali. The Devimāhātmyam, translated 'Glory of the Goddess,' an ancient Sanskrit text composed in 400 AD, speaks of a heinous battle between the Gods and the demon Mahishasura who could not be killed by any man. The gods combined their divine energies and created the warrior goddess - Kali, who destroyed the demon and his army.

These battles take place even today- in our psyches. The Gods represent truth, while the demon and his armies- everything that keeps us from living in truth- our fears, independence, self-worth, self-doubt and so on. Kali is the fierce feminine, and the hibiscus petal is her tongue, and so is offered to her.

Our jewelry from the Arya collection, though contemporary in manifestation, have their roots in many of these ancient stories and traditions. The jewels are an homage to the fierce feminine - graceful, wonderful natural forms handcrafted in Titanium, the strongest metal in the universe.

Precious gemstones, gold and titanium are inherent to all your jewelry creations. Can you tell us how you choose the materials you work with?  What are some of the challenges and what are the rewards?

We were the first jewelers to create fine titanium jewelry in India- it took us 2 years to present our collection, entirely handcrafted, and another year till our clients familiarised themselves with the metal. So it was challenging, as we had to be patient; but the reward was amazing as our titanium jewelry offered the answer to one of jewelry’s biggest conundrums - how can we wear something that is extremely large and extremely weightless at the same time. 

We choose materials entirely on the basis of design and function- we seek to solve an inconvenience in the most beautiful way. We also constantly search for wonderfull and rare materials - our newest earrings are currently being set with meteorites! 

Lastly, your latest collection "Neel" is deeply rooted in philanthropic activity as ESTAA donate 10% of this collection's profits to the Sea Change Project I love that the collection was created with the purpose to contribute and give back to nature and to the oceans.  Do you define sustainability and ethics in jewellery by the philanthropy activities you practice?  and how big a role do you see philanthropic activities have in ESTAA' s future?

I was watching Chef’s Table on Netflix, and the first episode was about Massimo Bottura, world renowned chef. In 2012, after two major earthquakes devastated Italy’s Emilia- Romagna region and its stores of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; Bottura created a risotto recipe that heavily featured the cheeses, and then promoted it through the Slow Food Movement. Within three months all the cheese was sold out, thus averting a massive economic disaster. I found the idea of food as an agent for social change very inspiring, and wondered how we could do the same with jewelry!

In 2020, we created our first ‘conscious' jewelry collection called UNITY, whose proceeds provided 42000 meals to stranded migrant craftsmen during the first wave of the COVID pandemic. We had an amazing response to this collection and the orders helped provide employment to many of these craftsmen.

I am an advanced scuba diver, always finding inspiration in the colors and forms of the oceanic world, all the while chasing my next dive location, before the corals bleach due to climate change. So we combined these intentions and ideas and came up with Neel to bring awareness to Project Sea Change, a movie that inspired me deeply. With a focused collection, we can help protect the oceans by bringing attention to its bountiful beauty and by preserving its forms endlessly in jewelry, using Aluminium, a sustainable and infinitely recyclable metal which can be crafted in thousands of colors.  Paying attention to sustainability is an important way of life going forward in a post pandemic world.

COVID taught me that philanthropy needs be at the root of everything we do. Be it with symbolic storytelling - as represented by the stories we tell through jewels from the Arya collection which aims to empower women living in a patriarchal world; all the way to creating avenues for social change through Neel which helps preserve the oceans.