By Michelle Graff

For all of India's exoticism—the rickshaws, the smell of curry from the streetside food vendors, the women sweeping down the streets in colorful saris—it also has certain qualities that remind me of the good old U.S. of A.

During my recent visit there for the India International Jewellery Show, I saw some of these similarities firsthand. There's an entrepreneurial spirit among its business people, a palpable energy when you walk down the streets of Mumbai (much like there is in New York), and even an obsession with celebrities, courtesy of Bollywood, the country's very successful film industry.

But there's one thing Indian jewelers enjoy that American jewelers do not: festivals. In India, every festival is not just a chance to celebrate, but an occasion on which to wear your very best jewelry, in mass quantity. And—this part is a symphony to any jeweler's ears—who wants to be caught dead in the same bangles or earrings they wore to the last festival?

The granddaddy of all Indian festivals is Diwali or the festival of lights, a religious and cultural festival that is probably the closest approximation to Christmas or Hanukkah here in the United States.

This is a major holiday, a celebration of family and of life itself, that brings in great sales for jewelers. Many of the retailers attending the late August show were buying for Diwali. And although that holiday doesn't happen until Nov. 9, I was able to bear witness to no fewer than two festivals during my 10-day stay in late August-early September.

One was the Festival of Rakhi, a celebration in which Indian brothers and sisters exchange bracelets made of sacred thread, similar to friendship bracelets sometimes seen here in the United States. Upping the ante this year, Surat jewelers were selling 18-karat gold bracelets with diamonds, bling bracelets that seemed the ideal status symbol for India's rising middle class.

The second festival I witnessed, which had less to do with jewelry as far as I could tell, was celebrated in part by people forming human pyramids. I thought the Indian colleague who told me about the latter was joking until I saw a group of men practicing the formation of these pyramids in a courtyard right outside of my hotel. [Who knew? The only U.S. equivalent I can think of is the opening scene from that 1970s family sitcom Eight Is Enough.]

But getting back to the festivals, these are major opportunities for jewelers doing business on the other side of the world. India has recently adopted Valentine's Day, so why not start a celebration of siblings here? Rakhi, anyone?

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