Ambaji Shinde, the Indian-born jewelry designer who set stones for Indian princes and Hollywood stars, died April 8 in Manhattan. He was 84.
His designs were inspired by the great temple sculptures of India. He achieved worldwide fame while working for the House of Harry Winston, the New York jeweler, whose signature wreath necklace was Shinde’s masterpiece.
In his early career, he designed coronation jewels for many Indian royals, includingthe Nizam of Hyderabad, once the richest man in the world.
Among Western celebs who have glittered in Shinde’s creations at Oscar ceremonies are Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Julianne Moore, Marcia Gay Harden, Halle Berry, Madonna and Mira Sorvino. In 1999, he designed the necklace worn by Gwyneth Paltrow when she accepted her Academy Award. The 45.52-carat blue Hope diamond, reset by Shinde, had earlier been worn by Michelle Pfeiffer.
After Indian independence in 1947, Shinde’s skills were in less demand from the Indian aristocracy, and he began to feel that he was wasting his talents in a country that no longer valued his artistry. It was at this time that his work came to the attention of Harry Winston, and Shinde set off for the U.S., leaving behind his wife and six children.
He remained the firm’s chief designer until his retirement two years ago, using his Indian cultural heritage to create distinctly Western pieces.
His four sons survive him.