• REENU BAHL
So now when we talk luxury, we talk chessboards. Artistically created chess-boards are objects of great beauty and originality Carvers prove their expertise by making some luxury pieces in materials such as ivory, gold, silver, pearls and precious stones. Many luxury pieces feature elaborate gilded decoration, delicate carving and inlay work in gold or silver, and tall forms that make them less than ideal for playing, but perfect as demonstrations of wealth and class.
Abhinav Koolwal, director of Jayshree International, manufacturers, exporter and supplier of artistically created decorative handicraft items, says they have done several high-end pieces. "We have done luxurious chessboards in a variety of options including wood, marble, bones and horn. Till a few years back when ivory was not banned, it was the most popular choice. These days, bone chessboard is the most demand-ed option and these are made from animal bones that are legal. The average price of a medium sized bone chessboard, if done classically, can go upto 1,50,000. Besides these, you have some classics designed in semi-precious stones like jade and onyx," he says.
What makes chessboards expensive is their ornamental value. Several of the ornamental sets have themes drawn from history mythology, or religion. "Originally it's not about the chess-board, it's more about the chessmen which make these chessboards so expensive. The board would continue to be the same chequered slab; artisans show their artistry on the chess pieces. They can be pure silver or in gold and can have over 60-70 themes. We make different chessmen based on themes like traditional Indian army, our cultural themes, then international subjects like Egyptian, Chinese or animal theme. The price depends on the size and type preferred," says Koolwal.
Chess sets are so valued by their owners that despite their delicate nature and rich materials, they are an item of household displays, says Monika Gupta, co-founder Craftsvilla.com. "Besides their utilisation value, chessboards have become a part of artifacts best suited to be displayed in homes. And this is the reason why companies have started coming up with some of the best pieces meant for visual display It all depends on how interested you are in adding luxurious items to your household and if you have the pocket to afford it. Abroad, such chessboards go for as high as $6,000-$8,000," she says.
A lot has got to do with the changing times. Indians, who would earlier travel abroad in search of luxury, are finding gold in their own country Preeti Rao, vice-president of luxury brand Elitaire, says, "The chessboards that we make are in 9.2 sterling silver, the chessmen are hand-embellished and in semi-precious stones, so it is value for money. Surprisingly, most of our customers come from tier-2 cities like Bhopal, Indore, Hyderabad, as they have the money power. You would see some of the most luxurious things at, places like Ludhiana, Mangalore and Vishakapatnam. It's all about the changing mindsets. Lifestyles are changing and people believe in living life king-size."