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Gem cutting units on the edge

Staff Reporter

File photo: M. Moorthy

IT’s CUTtING BOTH WAYS: Women working at an artificial gem cutting cottage unit at Alampattipudur near Tiruchi. —

TIRUCHI: Fluctuations in the cost of gold and labour shortage have pushed gem cutting industries in Tiruchi, Karur and Pudukottai districts into a wobbly situation.

The trend of workforce going after greener pastures, particularly industries and construction sector, has precipitated the predicament of synthetic gem manufacturers. Compared to Rs. 100 to Rs. 120 a worker could make every day in gem cutting, the daily wage in the construction sector exceeds Rs.150.

According to Mr. Krishnan, owner of a tiny gem-cutting unit, the future of manual gem cutting industry looks very bleak at this juncture. With orders plummeting over the past few months, he is considering options to change his very vocation.

He has been unable to provide regular employment to his handful of workers. As a consequence, the workers find themselves in an inescapable situation of looking for other jobs. Similar is the plight of thousands of units spread across the Central districts.

For obvious reasons, the preference of customers for gold jewellery studded with artificial gems is on the wane. The reason, the manufacturers point out, lies in the practice of the jewellers to include the mass of the gems in the overall weight of the jewellery.

The customers realise the loss they incur due to the practice only when they exchange old jewels for new ones; much to their chagrin, the weight of the artificial gems is not taken into consideration. Hence, aware customers make it a point to avoid gold jewellery studded with artificial gems.

Nevertheless, the advent of silver and metal jewellery, and of late, plastic jewellery, has provided the gem cutting industry a ray of hope for sustained large-scale demand. But then, for want of labourers, the manufacturers are unable to capitalise on the demand.

Though large-scale mechanisation of the process will facilitate the manufacturers to revive their business and supply their products for use in garments as well, the exorbitant cost involved holds them back. The situation could be remedied only through full-fledged government support as in China, according to Mr. S. Venugopal, former president of All India Synthetic Gem Manufacturers’ Association.

Pleas in vain

The association’s pleas to successive governments to provide the back up support to the industry that still supports livelihood of one lakh families in the central districts have not been given the due consideration so far.

Besides cost competitiveness owing to mechanisation, China also enjoys the advantage of raw material availability.

Imitation jewellery

As an ameliorative measure, the Tiruchi District Tiny and Small Scale Industries’ Association (TIDITSSIA), under the Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development (STED) supported by the Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi, is looking forward to leverage the manufacturing potential of the gem cutting units into making imitation jewellery.

According to the Project Director of TIDITSSIA-STED Ramasamy Desai, unlike in the case of gem cutting, not only are the returns assured for imitation jewellery, the market is also vast.

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