It is with great sadness that the Diamond World records the death of Rashmikant Durlabhji, a world renowned colored gemstones leader of Jaipur.
In the many years that he had been in this trade, Rashmikant served in a wide range of functions, including two terms as Vice-President of ICA. Rashmikant served as Chairman of the Steering Committee for the 2003 ICA Congress in Jaipur, India, one of ICA’s most memorable Congresses.
Rashmikant a beloved member of the colored gems sector, will be deeply missed by all. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the entire Durlabhji family. All of us share the grief of the Durlabhji family and feels the loss of someone who contributed so much to the gemstone industry.
Rashmikant’s friends used to say that he is made of perfect "presidential material", but the veteran gem dealer continued to abide by his late father’s avowed policy of never aspiring to officialdom, and working tirelessly behind the scenes. No wonder, in the gems and jewellery sectors, the Durlabhji name is a legend.
Escaping the harsh life of Saurashtra, where the family had a jewellery business, Rashmikant’s grandfather, Durlabhji Tribhuvan, arrived in Jaipur in 1908. At the time, Durlabhji used the surname Jain or Zaveri, but as his five male offsprings grew up, they were constantly being referred to as Durlabhji’s sons. Their father’s first name prevailed and ultimately was adopted as the family name.
Durlabhji’s oldest son, Vinaichand, joined his father in his business in 1920. He was sent to Europe where he soon found a clientele for an export business out of India, exporting loose colored gemstones to Paris and Antwerp. Twelve years later, the youngest son, Khailshanker – Rashmikant’s father – took over the Durlabhji base in Paris. He returned home after the Nazis overran the city in 1940. After their father’s death in 1941, Khailshanker and Vinaichand together created the firm R.V. Durlabhji. "My father never put his name to any firm. The R stood for my name and the V for my uncle’s," Rashmikant recalled.
World War II had disrupted the gem trade worldwide, but when it ended, great opportunity presented itself. Realizing that none of the emeralds produced in Colombia had been exported between 1939 and 1945, in 1946 Khailshanker succeeded in buying Colombia’s entire wartime emerald production. At the time it was worth a formidable $2 million. "R. V. Durlabhji’s emeralds flooded the manufacturing units. Virtually everyone in the city was processing our emeralds," Rashmikant remembered. It took seven years before the last bit of the wartime emeralds had been cut and polished.
Upon Vinaichand’s death in 1957, R.V. Durlabhji was dissolved. In its place sprung up two firms, V.C. Durlabhji, formed by Vinaichand’s son Pravinchandra and R.Y. Durlabhji by Rashmikant and Khailshanker. The ‘Y’ in the name was for Yogendra, Khailshanker’s younger son.
It was at this time that the colored gemstone world was abuzz with the news of the of the opening of the Sandwana emerald mine by Rio Tinto in what was then Southern Rhodesia and today is Zimbabwe.
More than 1,000 people were associated with the Durlabhji firm in the manufacturing and marketing of the Sandwana goods, and until 1969 the firm maintained its core client business. The exclusive arrangement with the Sandwana mine ended only in 1969, after the white-dominated Rhodesian Government’s unilateral declaration of independence. India suspended economic and political ties with the country, making the shipping of emeralds virtually impossible.
"While his business was developing, my father started taking more and more interest in public life," Rashmikant noted. In 1966, he took the lead in forming the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) and was its Founding Chairperson. Khailshanker initiated the GJEPC Awards in recognition of export performance by members of the gemstone trade.
Following his father’s example, Rashmikant dedicated his time and energy to charitable work.
An area particularly close to his heart was research and development. He worked closely with India’s Gem Testing Laboratory. He also served a term as GJEPC Chairman.
Another passion was the hospital launched by his father. The result of huge investment and an ambitious program, the 180-bed Santokba Durlabhji Memorial Hospital & Medical Research Institute Complex is a distinct landmark in Jaipur. In recognition of this remarkable achievement, Khailshanker was awarded Padmashri by the President of India in 1971.
Under Rashmikant’s supervision, the medical facilities developed into one of the best of complexes of its kind in India. In the 1990s, SDMH had the privilege of performing the first ever open-heart surgery in Rajasthan.
Rashmikant was also the Chairman of the Khailshanker Durlabhji Avedna Ashram Trust, which set up a 100-bed hospice for terminally ill patients.
The torch has been passed from generation to generation several times already, but the name and family presence have remained a constant in the colored gemstone trade.
(In memory of the dear departed leader R.K. Durlabhji, ICA has posted a story on his life and work on the Members Only section of the ICA website).