Category: Lifestyle

Soho House, but Make It Enlightened


You’ve co-worked, co-lived and co-exercised. Are you ready to co-commune?

Welcome to the Assemblage, a new club in Manhattan’s upscale NoMad neighborhood. Its evening-only memberships start at $200 per month, all-day use is $900 — and the menu of services tops out at $6,500 for amenities that include a private office with “room to stretch your legs.”

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Sergio Magaña and Daniel Pinchbeck give a lecture on how to awaken the “voltaic dream time” at a workshop at the Assemblage. Credit Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

On a recent night Alberto Villoldo, a medical anthropologist, psychologist and shaman, gave a talk in the club’s dim lobby called “Hacking Your Neurology With Sacred Plant Medicine.” To a packed crowd of mostly young urban professionals, some still in suits and ties from the work day, Mr. Villoldo was extolling the benefits of ayahuasca, a psychedelic substance made from Amazonian tree vines, broccoli flower extract and daily doses of omega-3.

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Members and guests gesture what they feel the body of a feminine leader looks like at the end of a workshop called the Future of Feminine at the Assemblage. Credit Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

“I don’t think there’s a topic that is closer to my heart,” said Rodrigo Niño, the founder of the club. Mr. Niño, 48 and the C.E.O. of Prodigy, a platform that uses crowdfunding to buy commercial real estate, was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma six years ago. Terrified of dying, he found an article in National Geographic about ayahuasca. He promptly left for Peru to spend two weeks taking the substance and reckoning with his own mortality.

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Lunch is provided for members and guest at the Assemblage. Communal breakfast is also served every day. Credit Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

“What I saw from that perspective was that society today was not in very good shape,” Mr. Niño said. “What I saw, in this hallucination, was how all living things were connected as one, but we were not aware of it rationally.”

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Rodrigo Niño, the founder and C.E.O. of the Assemblage. Credit Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

When Mr. Niño returned to New York, he was no longer plagued by fear of death, he said. But he struggled to integrate his vision of interconnectedness with his daily work. “I had this radical inner knowing that we were all together as one,” Mr. Niño said, “but I was a real-estate developer, an economist, from a mathematical, evidence-based background. I couldn’t prove it.”

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Two elixirs called “Heart” and “Ground” on the menu at the bar at the Assemblage. Credit Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

He has now decided to give it a try in $400 million worth of Manhattan real estate that include two other Assemblange-branded locations, one on lower Park Avenue and the other in the financial district, that will offer apartments and a hotel.

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Donnalynn Civello, Glendy Yeung and Julio Rivera work on their laptops on the 12th floor at the Assemblage. Credit Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

Mr. Niño said his new company was funded from small investments from more than 34 countries, and that every new qualifying member of the organization will be given the option of investing to become a co-owner of the buildings themselves.

He has donated some of his contemporary art collection to decorate the NoMad club, as well as Peruvian weavings he ordered specially made from the Shipibo tribe whose ayahuasca ceremonies he attended during his trip.

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A meditation room at the Assemblage. Credit Jackie Molloy for The New York Times
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How Charles Manson Nearly Made It in Hollywood


In classic Los Angeles fashion, his big break — or what looked like it — came through a chance encounter with a celebrity. After Dennis Wilson, the hard-partying drummer for the Beach Boys, picked up a couple of Mr. Manson’s young female followers while hitchhiking, Mr. Manson did his best to bring Mr. Wilson, with his sports cars and gold records, under his messianic spell.

The drummer was open to mind expansion, having studied under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. As Mr. Wilson explained to Britain’s Record Mirror in 1968, he had met a new guru named Charlie, “who’d recently come out of jail after 12 years,” but had “great musical ideas.”

“We’re writing together now,” he said of the man he called the Wizard. “He’s dumb, in some ways, but I accept his approach and have learnt from him.”

Mr. Manson and his family camped out at Mr. Wilson’s Pacific Palisades estate, once the home of Will Rogers. They mingled in the Beach Boys recording studio with the likes of Rodney Bingenheimer, the columnist and social arbiter of the Los Angeles rock scene who was eventually celebrated in the 2004 documentary “Mayor of the Sunset Strip.”

Mr. Manson was also trying out his mystical psychobabble on every rock star he met. Not all were smitten.

One night, Mr. Wilson invited his cousin Mike Love, the Beach Boys singer, over for dinner to meet the Wizard. It quickly turned into a “group sex kind of situation,” Mr. Love told ABC News many years later. “It wasn’t my cup of tea, so I excused myself to take a shower.”

“No sooner than I got in the shower, the door opened and Charlie Manson stood there and looked up at me and said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Mr. Love recalled. “I said, ‘Excuse me?’” Mr. Manson apparently replied: “You can’t leave the group!”

Despite Mr. Manson’s unsettling behavior, the Beach Boys gave him his first taste of mainstream fame, including “Never Learn Not to Love,” an only slightly reworked version of the Manson necro-rocker “Cease to Exist,” on their 1969 album, “20/20.” With lyrics like “Cease to resist, come on say you love me,” it wasn’t exactly a surfin’ safari. Nevertheless, the band apparently thought enough of their Manson-inspired new direction to perform the song on “The Mike Douglas Show.”

Mr. Manson also managed to win over Neil Young, who was already attaining legend status in Los Angeles at that time. In his 2012 autobiography, “Waging Heavy Peace,” Mr. Young recalled a visit to his house by Mr. Manson and a few of the women, when Mr. Manson grabbed Mr. Young’s guitar and started strumming a few originals.

“His songs were off-the-cuff things he made up as he went along,” Mr. Young writes, “and they were never the same twice in a row. Kind of like Dylan, but different because it was hard to glimpse a true message in them, but the songs were fascinating. He was quite good.”

It wasn’t long before Mr. Manson was finding doors open for him at the most exclusive Hollywood parties. In his 1992 autobiography, “What’s It All About?,” Michael Caine, no hippie to be sure, recalled being introduced to a “scruffy little man” named Charles Manson at a party at Cass Elliot’s house. (Also in attendance: future Manson family victims Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring, the celebrity hairstylist).

Not so different from the world today, an open-door policy was common in the late ’60s, particularly for colorfully dressed hipsters carrying acoustic guitars and drugs.

More than a few Hollywood players explored free love with members of the Manson family, perhaps even with Mr. Manson himself. According to “Manson In His Own Words,” a 1986 as-told-to book by Nuel Emmons, an old prison acquaintance, executives at a major record label supposedly were hooked when Mr. Manson started talking about his carefree existence “living in a bus with 12 girls.”

Based on six years of interviews with a convicted murderer given to wild hyperbole and self-contradiction (many reconstructed without the benefit of a tape recorder), some of the subject’s “recollections” need to be taken with a grain of salt, if not a pound of it. Nevertheless, Mr. Manson supposedly told Mr. Emmons that before long, he and his “girls” were on the “let’s-get-acquainted list of many of the not-so-straight idols of the movie world.”

“We had long ago chucked our inhibitions about sex,” Mr. Manson supposedly said. “But chains, whips, torture and other weirdness were not part of our routine.” The book also recounts a supposed ménage à trois with Mr. Manson, a male movie star and his television actress wife, after which the man, one “Mr. B,” “slipped five one-hundred-dollar bills in my pocket.”

Other members of the Hollywood firmament with actual names fell under his spell. In a 2014 interview with Britain’s Daily Mail, Angela Lansbury talked about how her daughter, Deirdre, who had struggled with drug addiction as a teenager in the ’60s, “was in with a crowd led by Charles Manson.”

“She was one of many youngsters who knew him, and they were fascinated,” Ms. Lansbury said. “He was an extraordinary character, charismatic in many ways, no question about it.”

All tales of Mr. Manson’s days living the Hollywood high life lead to Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day who was a heavyweight record producer for acts including the Beach Boys and the Byrds. Along with Mr. Wilson and Gregg Jakobson, an industry friend, Mr. Melcher, who died in 2004, was “part of an informal society known as the Golden Penetrators,” according to Jeff Guinn’s exhaustive 2013 biography, “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson.”

The group’s membership “was limited to anyone who had sex with women from one of show business’s most famous families,” but did not apparently stop there.

The “triumvirate reveled in their hedonism,” Mr. Guinn writes. “In a city that had long ago waived most moral or legal limits for the famous, their philosophy was ‘We’re us, there are no rules, we get to do this.’”

Little surprise, then, that they were soon hanging out in a celebrity booth at the Whiskey a Go Go, with one Charles Milles Manson, who one night managed to clear the dance floor with his maniacal gyrations: “He tipped back his head and threw out his arms,” Mr. Guinn writes. “It seemed as though electrical sparks flew from Charlie’s fingers and hair.”

“The crowd had surged off the dance floor as if driven by some irresistible force field,” the book continues. “Now it circled the floor, mesmerized by the sight of the whirling dervish.”

While Mr. Melcher was one of the music industry’s power players, he was also known in the late ’60s as one half of a celebrity couple, living with his girlfriend, Candice Bergen, in a secluded Benedict Canyon home at 10050 Cielo Drive.

Students of the period do not need to be told how things unfolded after Mr. Melcher met Mr. Manson. The producer initially showed interest in Mr. Manson’s music, but eventually distanced himself.

And as Mr. Manson watched his chance at musical fame evaporate, he grew increasingly desperate and began to sermonize with more fervor about a coming race war that he called Helter Skelter, a phrase he cribbed from the Beatles song about an amusement-park ride.

For decades, debate has raged about the motives of the so-called Tate murders, even among those involved in them. It seems clear that, at some level, Mr. Manson sought to strike back at the Hollywood elite that had spurned him.

Regardless, Mr. Manson was well aware that Mr. Melcher no longer lived in the Cielo Drive house where five adults and Ms. Tate’s unborn son died gruesomely. It was a house Mr. Manson knew well, and on the evening of March 23, 1969, fewer than five months before the murders, Mr. Manson had dropped by looking for Mr. Melcher, according to “Helter Skelter,” the 1974 book by the Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, with Gary Gentry.

He found new residents in the house, however, who directed him to Rudi Altobelli, a talent manager who owned the house, but who was then staying in the guesthouse. Mr. Altobelli informed Mr. Manson that Mr. Melcher had moved to Malibu, but offered no address.

Mr. Manson’s visit that day, it seems, would be the most fateful of his celebrity encounters. The next day, Ms. Tate mentioned the curious encounter to Mr. Altobelli on a flight to Rome. “Did you see that creepy-looking guy come back there yesterday?” she asked.

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The Sweet Spot: When the Cable Guy’s a Gal, Some People’s Wires Get Crossed


And yet, you wouldn’t have written to us if you felt sure you were ready to leave this job. I think you still have hope you can fix this problem, and I want to encourage you to give it a try — not by changing yourself to conform to the sexism that still prevails in our culture, but by bending your work culture to better conform to you.

Steve Almond: One thing that might help, in terms of your work in the field, is to depersonalize some of these interactions. That is, to recognize that you’re being paid to perform a service, not to satisfy the sexist, or misogynist, assumptions of your customers. It’s not your job to convince anyone that you’re qualified to hook up their damn cable. It’s your job to hook up their damn cable. If a man won’t let you in the door because he can’t fathom that a woman could hook up his damn cable, that’s his problem. He can wait for the next service staffer.

Same deal with the woman who thinks you’re playing a trick on her. If a man touches you without your permission, leave his home and contact the police. Period. Being in the service industry is hard enough, given the monstrous sense of entitlement most Americans exhibit. You’re not additionally responsible for battling the bigotry of your customers. Their hangups are their problems, and their behaviors — particularly unwanted touching — are a matter for law enforcement.

CS: I agree with Steve that a bit of righteous anger would do you a world of good. Those sexist customers will get the point if you take them at their word the next time they proclaim a woman can’t do the job. Instead of trying to persuade them otherwise, offer to call your supervisor to have them reschedule their appointment and request a man. I think you’ll be amazed at how quickly their confidence in you will grow once they realize they’ll have to go another week (or three) without watching their favorite show.

This approach will be more effective and less potentially job-threatening if you have your company behind you. I strongly encourage you to go to your human-resources manager and tell him or her what you told us. Your employer is obligated to establish a workplace that’s fair to everyone. Enlist your human-resources team to come up with ways to address both the sexism you experience in the field and the isolation you feel as a woman in a male-dominated workplace. It isn’t on you alone to change your work culture, but it often takes the voices and perspectives of people like you to incite employers to consider how they can create a more equitable work environment. You write so joyfully about being a force for gender normalization among the customers who feel inspired by your presence; you can be that kind of leader within your company too.

SA: As I read your letter, Cable Girl, I thought so much about Hillary Clinton. I don’t mean Mrs. Clinton as a political figure so much as a woman who has, like you, chosen a path that subjects her to the slings and arrows of a world that remains ruled by patriarchal prerogative. You write: I have to work twice as hard to prove myself to customers as my male counterparts do, while fielding ludicrous questions and comments about my appearance and my personal life. Replace the word “customers” with “voters” and you’ve just described the experience of many a female candidate.

That doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to a miserable work life. But it does mean that you should recognize the value in what you’re doing. Every day you’re out there, you’re forcing people to rethink their idiotic assumptions about the sort of work men and women can do in the world. There may be dents in your shield, in other words, but there’s also an army gathering behind you.

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Registry: Artwork for the Table


Wedding presents of tableware with images by a diverse group of artists will suit a multitude of tastes. Some images are very contemporary; some are modern and abstract. Others, like a set of salt and pepper shakers, refer us back to the 1960s and Andy Warhol.

Plates by Louise Bourgeois are patterned with imagery from her scrapbooks of textiles now on view in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (through Jan. 28, 2018). Or the newlyweds’ table might be better set with porcelain plates decorated with images by Kehinde Wiley, the New York-based artist chosen by Michelle and Barack Obama to paint Mr. Obama’s official portrait.

If the couple loves abstract expressionism, consider colorful place mats decorated with the work of Sam Francis. For more traditional couples, try porcelain mugs emblazoned with Gustav Klimt’s, “The Kiss” or “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.”


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1. Dotted Porcelain Plate

Red Dots Plate by Louise Bourgeois is decorated with a pattern from a scrapbook of fabrics called “Ode â l’Oubli” in the current exhibition of Ms Bourgeois’s work at the Museum of Modern Art. The 10½-inch porcelain plate is dishwasher safe.

$55; at MoMA Design Store, store.moma.org.


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2. Oval Porcelain Platter

Jeff Koons: Banality Oval Platter is a limited edition porcelain piece manufactured by Bernardaud, the French china company. The 15-inch platter has a reproduction of “Ushering in Banality,” a 1988 work by Mr. Koons.

$380 at MoMA Design Store, store.moma.org.


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3. Decorative Cotton Towel

A tea towel by the English artist Chris Ofili will help decorate a kitchen when serving guests. The colorful cotton towel has an image of a woman from his Afro Muses series of watercolor paintings made between 1995 and 2005. Each towel is 19½ by 27 inches.

$45 from the New Museum, newmuseumstore.org.


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4. Hand-Painted Mug

A speckled mug by Peter Shire, a Los Angeles ceramic artist who was part of the Memphis Design Group led by Ettore Sottsass in the 1980s, is hand painted. Each mug has slightly different patterns and colors.

$60 at the Shop at Cooper Hewitt, shop.cooperhewitt.org.


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5. Jessica on the Plate

The Jessica Plate, from a 1994 painting by Alex Katz, is porcelain and 10½ inches.

$125 at the Whitney Museum Shop, shop.whitney.org.


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6. Cotton Hand-Embroidered Napkin

Donald Sultan’s “Mimosa” drawings were the inspiration for eight Mimosa cotton napkins. Each 18-inch-square, hand-embroidered napkin in the set is decorated with a different pattern taken from the series of drawings.

A set of eight is $200 from Artware, artwareeditions.com.


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7. Vibrant Porcelain Plate

The Mary Little porcelain plate, with a detail from a 2014 painting called “Mary Little, Later Mary Carr” by Kehinde Wiley, is 10¾ inches. All are microwave and dishwasher safe.

Mary Little porcelain plate, $99. A set of six plates with details from six portraits from Mr. Wiley’s works painted from 2008-2012 is $525 from Artware, artwareeditions.com.


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8. Tea for Two and Gold Leaf, Too

Bone china mugs with images by Gustav Klimt, “Das Kuss” (“The Kiss”) and Adele Bloch Bauer, are sold as a set of two. The 12-ounce mugs are dishwasher and microwave safe.

$27.99 from Bed Bath & Beyond, bedbathandbeyond.com.


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9. Shakers (Smaller Than a Soup Can)

Porcelain salt and pepper shakers by Ligne Blanche inspired by Andy Warhol’s “Colored Campbell’s Soup Cans” (1965) are about two-and-a-half inches high.

$125 for the set, gagosian.com/shop.


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10. Cork-Backed Place Mat Set

Place mats with images by the American abstract expressionist Sam Francis, are backed with cork.

$45 for two from the Gallery Shops at the National Gallery of Art, www.shop.nga.gov.


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India’s Jewelry Tradition of Gold is Turning to … Concrete?


Ms. Ahluwalia, who describes herself as India’s first conceptual jewelry artist, studied with the pioneering conceptual jeweler Ruudt Peters in the Netherlands in 2010, and says the contemporary jewelry designs created by Dutch designers in the 1970s continue to inspire her.

“In 2003, when I began making jewelry, I found the customers very excited and enthusiastic about finding jewelry that looked so different than what they were used to,” she said. But when a collection using concrete didn’t sell well, she began to work with gold-plated silver cut into elaborate fretwork designs.

Today, Ms. Ahluwalia’s creations blend social activism, art, design and fashion — partly trying to counter what she calls the patriarchal associations of traditional Indian jewelry.

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Center, a sterling silver necklace by Ms. Ahluwalia joins the words for love in Hindi and Urdu. Credit Arka Dutta for The New York Times

For example, her 2011 Wedding Vows collection took a stand against domestic violence by using renderings of kirpans, the knives that are an important symbol of her Sikh identity, in necklaces and other pieces. The words “Love, Respect, Protect” were worked in gold into chandelier earrings and layered necklaces.

That collection, she said, continues to be among her most successful, with its slogan “Accessorize the Warrior Within” resonating among customers.

Like recent industry trends among Western jewelers, Ms. Ahluwalia said her designs were inspired by traditional and personal narratives, like her Wordsmith collection that displayed the names for God in Urdu, Arabic and Hindi.

“We aren’t selling jewelry,” she said, “we’re creating totems and carriers of messages and stories in physical form that can be carried close to the body, and worn as constant personal reminders.”

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By Ms. Ahluwalia, trident earrings made from sterling silver with gold plating. Credit Arka Dutta for The New York Times

Ms. Ahluwalia’s prices start at about $80 for a pair of shell-shaped earrings and rise to about $400 for elaborate pieces. “At first there was a cap to how much customers would spend in terms of price per piece,” she said. But, “over the years, the Indian market is exposed to so much more, and the customer base has significantly widened.”

Suhani Pittie, a Pune-based designer who works in the gold-plated silver known as vermeil, agrees that the market has changed.

“The contemporary non-fine jewelry landscape has undergone a tremendous metamorphosis over the years,” she said in an email. “When we first began in 2004, there were only three players in the market. Jewelry was then divided into two categories only: fine and costume. There was no middle route for those interested in purchasing a product purely for the love of design.”

Today, unorthodox materials like concrete, wood, leather and found objects are used by many of the 60 designers whose work is showcased alongside Ms. Ahluwalia’s at Nimai, a concept jewelry store opened in Delhi by Pooja Roy Yadav in 2013.

“Our designers use concrete, discarded watch parts, miniature paintings, nuts, bolts and almost anything to create jewelry not as an alternative to gold but as a piece of wearable art,” Ms. Yadav said.

One of those designers, Anupama Sukh Lalvani, uses steel for her En Inde creations.

“I’m a trained architect and steel was a natural choice of material for me,” she said by email. “Steel is used for its strength and mirrorlike shine (to ward off evil). The tag line of the company is #findyoursteel.”

According to a strategic market research report by Euromonitor, the Indian costume jewelry sector is expected to show twice as much growth this year as fine jewelry, primarily because of what it calls the growing consumer preference for lightweight jewelry that can be worn every day.

Along with changes in design and materials, contemporary jewelry designers also have embraced new ways of marketing and selling their creations.

For example, Swarovski recently collaborated with 11 Indian fashion and jewelry designers, including Ms. Ahluwalia. “It has introduced our brand to a much wider base of Swarovski customers who may not have known us and our work before,” the designer said. “Also, it has given our customers something new to be excited about since we don’t actually use a lot of stones.”

Ms. Ahluwalia will not reveal her annual sales but, she said, 75 percent of them occur online, primarily to Indian buyers. Her brand also has more than 21,000 followers on Instagram. “Social media has been an invaluable tool to share these stories,” she said, “which would be near impossible in traditional retail formats, and very expensive and impersonal through conventional advertising and marketing.”

Traditionally, the Indian wedding has been the primary reason for gold jewelry purchases, with everyone from the bride to guests wearing as much as they own or borrow. Now designers, including Ms. Ahluwalia and Ms. Pittie, are creating collections suitable for bridal wear. As Ms. Yadav said, “The modern Indian urban bride wants to have fun and her choices in jewelry reflects that. They are choosing fun experimental contemporary jewelry over heavily ornamented bling.

“They want jewelry that doesn’t sit in their lockers post-marriage, but costume jewelry that they can wear more often.”

Other Indian designers experimenting along the same lines include:

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Absynthe Design offers jewelry made from old watch parts and silver.

ABSYNTHE DESIGN The business, founded by Abhishek Basak in 2010 after he decided to leave a stressful job, sells old watch parts and silver that have been turned into unusual jewelry for men and women, as well as luxury writing instruments and gadgets.

“My mother had a small mechanical watch gifted to her by my grandfather when she was young,” Mr. Basak said of his inspiration. “The watch no longer worked, but being a very sentimental object it was kept carefully in a drawer. I made her a pendant, and she wore her father’s gift again after 30-odd years.”

As for the market, he said: “Today, consumers are ready to experiment. They are ready to cut across cultures, tribes and traditions to try new things. Social media, the ease of accessing information and increase of global exposure has brought about this terrific shift in consumer attitude.”

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Earrings from Dvibhumi, a name adapted from the Sanskrit words dve, meaning two, and bhumi, meaning earth.

DVIBHUMI The company name is adapted from the Sanskrit words dve, meaning two, and bhumi, meaning earth. Vyshnavi N. Doss, who started Dvibhumi in 2014 after a decade spent in advertising, said, “It represents a stream of ideas flowing from my two worlds: India, where I grew up, and Southeast Asia, where I live, work and travel.”

The brand, based in Singapore, combines tribal influences and Asia-inspired geometry with an industrial design sensibility.

Asked in an email how easy it has been to gain attention in a traditional gold market, Ms. Doss said Indian buyers “are more likely to value jewelry as a product of an artist’s imagination rather than one of skill, high intrinsic value or labor-intensive processes. I find this gradual riddance of restrictions both necessary and encouraging because it broadens the canvas for experimentation and appreciation.”

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A Silver Mobius Twist ring by Studio Metallurgy.

STUDIO METALLURGY Advaeita Mathur started the company in 2015, and it has become known for a quirky use of upcycled materials and its industrial aesthetic. Strips of nickel-plated brass twisted into sculptural shapes as oversize earrings have been a best seller.

Ms. Mathur said her customers were “attuned to a design sensibility that blends the contemporary and traditional together.”

“If one wants to mint money,” she said, “traditional jewelry is still the way to go. Having said this, there are increasingly more contemporary brands coming up, and people are enthusiastic in trying out nonprecious jewelry.”

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