Agrawal’s Jewels 4 Ever, founded in 2012, exclusively focuses on the business’ low-cost Canadian-made gemstone jewelry line. She specializes in affordable fine colored stone jewelry, finding the gems and their beauty among the stones.
Meanwhile, Bhandari’s Aarkish Diamonds specializes in high-end custom diamond jewelry. An expert with over 30 years of experience in the jewelry industry, she comes from a long line of diamantaires and spent much of her formative years in the Antwerp diamond market, while remaining obsessed with fashion and luxury.
However, a common love for fine jewelry and craft brought them together. Both second-generation jewelers and daughters of immigrant parents, Agrawal and Bhandari have a combined experience of 72 years in the industry. Their contrasting specialties allowed for the duo to take bold steps when coming together.
While they’ve known of each other tangentially for over 20 years, their friendship and eventual collaboration was expedited, strangely enough, by the pandemic. It all started when Bhandari, a board member of Fashion Group International Toronto (FGI Toronto), asked Agrawal to participate in an Instagram live session to discuss jewelry trends.
It culminated in a successful partnership that has now taken the women to the top of their trade, having just nabbed three international jewelry design awards from INSTORE magazine’s 2021 annual design contest.
The duo have won the following awards: second place by the judges’ selection, plus the Retailer’s Choice Award in the Best Earring Over $5,000 category for their Spring Goddess Earrings and the Retailer’s Choice Award in the Colored Stone Jewelry Over $5,000 category for their Blue Flame Pendant.
The two were handpicked by a panel of select esteemed retailers and influencers and were also chosen via an online vote comprising of retailers from across North America for their designs.
“It’s an honor to be recognized as a small business owner and Canadian manufacturer,” Agrawal said of the achievement. “I’ve worked in this industry for so long, and both of us have made thousands of pieces. But it feels far more significant an achievement when other industry retailers select your designs.”
“We were up against legendary designers and multi-million-dollar businesses in this competition, such as Gabriel & Co, and Erica Courtney,” said Bhandari. “So there were a lot of very strong submissions.”
Both have several achievements of their own, though.
Agrawal’s work has been featured in numerous national and international magazines and in 2019, she was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Bangkok International Gem and Jewelry Fair in Thailand. She hosts a YouTube video series, “CJ Designer’s Talk,” in collaboration with Canadian Jeweller Magazine, in which she showcases talented jewelers from around the world. Agrawal is also a part-time professor at the School of Business at Centennial College.
Meanwhile, Bhandari has made her way into the Toronto Diamond district when she founded Aarkish Diamonds Inc. in 2000. A lot of her success is owed to an academic passion for the art. She is a board member of the Fashion Group International – Toronto chapter, an Hoge Raad Voor Diamant (HRD – Diamond High Council) Gemmologist, and graduate of the International Gemological Institute.
The competition wins didn’t come without challenges, though. Like many others during the global pandemic, the two had to work extra hard to not only ensure they were able to keep their businesses afloat, but also to bring their creative vision to life.
A lot of their gratitude, therefore, went out to the several local goldsmiths, artisans, CAD designers, and stone setters that helped make their creations come alive and take them to the heights they’re at now. Agrawal said, “This pandemic really highlighted the necessity of small businesses to come together and collaborate,” to which Bhandari added, “There is so much talent in this city.”
What’s next, you might wonder? Taking the opportunity to bring their fruits to the market, as they hope to sell the two winning pieces and continue on with their collaboration.
While there are several new pieces already in the works for them, for Anita Agrawal and Anita Bhandari, this is their time to shine!