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May 2018- Houston

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Page 35 of 83

34 H ere's how the improbable trajectory to Hollywood fame took off: A newlywed couple with a fledgling jewelry atelier based in Houston captured the attention of Halle Berry, who wanted to accessorize a Dolce & Gabbana micro frock for the premiere of her 2012 film, Cloud Atlas. Sutra white-gold and gray-diamond earrings, which dangled from the star's neck, did the trick. But before the fame and fortunate Hollywood connection, it was a story of a marriage of two immigrants of Indian descent, Arpita and Divyanshu Navlakha, and two contradictory traditions of what jewelry in modern India should be. His family, based in northern New Delhi, created works that hearken to classical motifs and traditional designs extending back to the Mughal period — elaborate creations seen at Indian weddings: encrusted bib necklaces, draping diamond chains, collar and cuffs adorned with impressive emerald beads. In contrast, Arpita's family's Mumbai factory produced jewelry for India's booming modern commercial market. The couple met 13 years ago — and bucking Indian tradition, it was not an arranged introduction, but occurred in a non-romantic spot: GIA World Headquarters in Carlsbad, California, where both were studying at The Robert Mouawad Campus of the gem school. Amidst this intensive setting for gemologic study, a romance blossomed despite the fact they were from two different Indian states. They wed in December 2007. The following year, with GIA diplomas in hand, the Navlakhas moved to Houston to launch their company. As a teen, Arpita had attended Dulles High School in Sugar Land, after her parents relocated to Houston for their jewelry business At Sutra, their roles reflect their respective strengths: She's a designer; he's the sleuth for stones. The entire process is intensely collaborative. "Divyanshu goes on trips and buys most of the stones," Arpita says, "and we look at them and design together as a team." As for the couple's shared heritage, she says, "Since we're both born in India, I'm sure it shows some way or the other in our jewelry." The name Sutra is taken from Sanskrit and translates as a collection of sacred verses and sacred poems. "A lot of ancient, sacred books have been written with 'Sutra' in the name," Divyanshu says. "For example, the Kama Sutra. It's mythological Hindu." With a High Jewellery Collection soaring into six and seven figures, Sutra soon caught the eyes of J.Lo, Oprah, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, Hilary Swank, and Taylor Swift. Such exposure in a short decade has catapulted the business into the lofty ranks of exhibitors at the world's foremost show of international jewelers, Baselworld in Basel, Switzerland, where one must be among the most elite to show collections. With business and design headquarters in Houston, manufacturing workshops in Mumbai, and an additional office serving the burgeoning Asian market from Hong Kong, the structure requires incessant travel — for Arpita, trips between Texas and India, and for Divyanshu, to ports of call A TALE OF 3 CITIES, 2 IMMIGRANTS, AND AN ASCENDING JEWELRY BRAND BY CATHERINE D. ANSPON. PORTRAIT BY MAX BURKHALTER. INSIDE THE INTERNATIONAL JEWELRY HOUSE SUTRA, CATHERINE D. ANSPON LOOKS AT THE HEADY RISE — AND REAL-LIFE ROMANCE — BEHIND THE FABLED HOUSTON JEWELER. more far afield, in search of stones of impeccable pedigree and to open up emerging markets, especially in China. "We work with one store in China right now, but they have 15 different locations, so they need a lot of servicing," he says. The concept of "ethically mined" is paramount. Sutra collaborates with Gemfields on sourcing ethically mined rubies and emeralds from Africa. Burma is off the table due to human-rights abuse. "Ethically mined is becoming more and more important," Divyanshu says. THE SUTRA AESTHETIC What's most remarkable about Sutra is the jewelry itself: a sea of intricate and bold creations. Arpita holds up one of their calling cards, a $1.2 million diamond-and-emerald collar necklace in white gold, which was a showstopper at Baselworld. "With traditional Indian jewelry, what touches the skin should be as beautiful as what you show to the world outside," she says. Therefore, Sutra jewelry is beautifully finished, front and back. We're looking at a ring set with a stone that Arpita has claimed for Sutra — the Paraíba, a dazzling Sutra founders Arpita and Divyanshu Navlakha Sutra Opal Trifecta bracelet with diamonds, opals, and sapphires in 18K black gold (continued on page 36)

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