x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Alchemy at work turns old into new at Dubai jewellers

In a workshop just off Dubai's Sheikh Zayed Road, scores of craftsmen sit in long rows finely chiselling, grinding and fashioning some of the rarest jewels and most precious metals into objects of beauty.

A gold bar fresh from the mold. Pawan Singh / The National
A gold bar fresh from the mold. Pawan Singh / The National

Kiran Pethani, the owner of Cara Jewellers in the Dubai Gold and Diamond Park, weighs a 4-inch by 2-inch bar of gold on the flat of his hand. He raises and lowers it as if on a balance as he considers the dirty brick with a connoisseur's eye.

"That's about 3kg," he says sombrely. "I just melted down some scrap jewellery and that is the result. It still has to be refined. That's why it looks so dirty. Not shiny like you expect."

Just off Sheikh Zayed Road, near the Mall of the Emirates, scores of craftsmen sit in long rows finely chiselling, grinding and fashioning some of the rarest jewels and most precious metals on Earth into objects of beauty.

They are hidden from view in factory workshops deep within the Gold and Diamond Park. Most of them come from remote villages on the India-Bangladesh border. Most of them are third, fourth or fifth-generation master jewellers. All of them have a very steady hand and an amazing eye for detail.

Mr Pethani has one of the biggest workshops in the complex and his jewellers are always busy.

He also buys old jewellery for cash or takes it as part exchange for new pieces.

Noula, a British customer at Cara who declined to give her last name, was last week busily negotiating to buy a new pair of diamond earrings for a friend. As she and the trader haggled over the price of the stones, Noula produced a small black box containing an intricate gold chain, offering it as part payment for the pricey earrings.

The trader accepted in an instant and the deal was done.

"My friend in England wanted to get some earrings made just like mine so she sent me this old chain to get melted down for cash to help pay for them," Noula said. "It is much better value to do it here because you don't have the taxes. So you get more money for your old gold and the new jewellery is cheaper."

Moments later and Noula's friend's chain is being stuffed, along with a handful of other similar items, into the crucible of a 1,000°Cfurnace in one of Cara's labyrinthine factory workshops. A few moments more and it is a fiery molten liquid being poured into a rectangular mould. In seconds it is cooled and washed in a dirty old sink.

Later Mr Pethani weighs it in the palm of his hand, just like the first. "That one is 1kg," he says. Or more than US$53,500 (Dh196,510) at today's market prices. Not bad for some old rings, necklaces and bracelets that had been forgotten at the bottom of a jewellery box.

jdoran@thenational.ae