Jaipur is the gemstone capital of the world, and large rubies, sapphires and emeralds can often be purchased here for much less than they would cost in the West. Although the city contains innumerable jewelry stores and workshops, a visit to the famous Gem Palace is still mandatory. Founded in 1852 by the Kasliwal family, former court jewelers to the Mughal emperors, it is housed within the atmospheric family haveli. In a series of showrooms, glass-fronted wooden display cases overflow with a treasure trove of both traditional and contemporary pieces. On the walls, photographs of American presidents rub shoulders with Hollywood’s finest.
Other notable jewelers include Amrapali and Royal Gems & Arts. My guide also took me to the Silver & Art Palace, where I was shown some wonderful old diamonds from Golconda, near Hyderabad. Indian diamonds have a mysterious luster that, to my eye, is more alluring than that of stones from Southern Africa. The store’s solicitous owner offered to sell me my favorite 10-carat gem for the knockdown price of $200,000, but fortunately, I was able to summon sufficient willpower to decline. Jaipur guides invariably take visitors to the stores where they hope to receive commissions, so it is important to be specific about the jewelers you wish to visit.