I've had the fortune of going with MIL and Chachi and hubby to pick out gold jewelry 3 or 4 times now. The first being the rings for our roka and other times for bangles and earrings. Each time has been quite similar and is a very unique and impressive experience.
MIL and FIL each have their own favorite stores. They are not the same store interestingly enough lol. FIL only shops at Tanishq...I swear that man and I have such similar tastes and he cracks me up because if he's shopping he absolutely must outdo everyone else and he's always been successful. MIL likes Tarlok Chand and hubby likes Maliram.
So MIL, Chachi, hubby and I went shopping for our rings at Tarlok Chand. This was my first experience buying Indian gold. The shop was jam packed and there was barely room to squeeze in the door. Our turn finally came up and we were seated on benches in front of the gold counter and a male behind the counter asked MIL a few questions, I assume about what we wanted, and then he went and started pulling out box after box of gold rings and setting them on the counter in front of me. I was free to pick up, touch, try on, etc. as many of them as I wanted. I was kind of apprehensive because in the US you see everything through a glass counter, may get to try one ring at a time and there's a sales clerk hovering the entire time. I tried to convey what I wanted - unique, with flowers and colored stones - and after seeing literally 10 boxes of rings (about 200 or so) I finally got through to them what I was looking for. I'm guessing they hadn't dealt with a picky American before.
My ring has 2 flowers with white petals and orange garnet centers. Then there are two pink sapphire leaves. I was happy and still haven't seen anything like it since. MIL had them size my ring while we waited, they then weighed it and priced it for her to pay for. Then it came to be hubby's turn and I think he was more nervous than me. He had no clue what he wanted and with some pushing he finally picked something. He too had it sized and weighed and I paid for it. Now, I'm not sure what he was thinking but he had it sized too big and it's never fit him lol. His mom won't let him cut it down because she's certain the shop would keep the gold and cheat him out of the money paid for it. He did wear it to work a few times but some of the vagabonds he works with started making comments and he thought they may try to steal it so now he only wears it on special occasions (like when I make him wear it).
Fast forward to when I came back for the wedding and to live here. FIL loves weddings and was adamant that I have a nice gold set to wear to the wedding. He drug MIL out to Tanishq and purchased a limited edition set with flowers (he pays attention). It is beautiful. I don't get to wear it much but it is very pretty indeed. Then a funny thing happened. I got to learn first hand how limited Tanishq's editions are. FIL went back about 9 months later to purchase a gold set for BIL's wife (when they find him one) and what did he bring? Well it's *almost* identical to mine. The difference is that some of the designs on the flowers are slightly bigger - not in a good way though. We were all cracking up because he swore they weren't the same and we had to get mine out and show him. So we all had a good laugh at his expense. At least I know they value me and this unknown woman the same so far.
Since then I've picked out earrings twice. Some things seem more important to families here than others and I don't always understand. Earrings is one of them. After my visit in 2009 I was well aware Indian earrings have much larger gauge posts than US earrings. So I started stretching my ear holes in preparation for the wedding. I had several sets of gauged earrings that you can leave in forever if you want to. I changed them from time to time and I had an electric yellow set that looked a lot like Indian gold. I just couldn't wear it much because they gave me headaches when I was trying to sleep on my side. MIL was adamant I needed gold earrings so she took me shopping.
Again I was seated and hundreds of earrings were passed in front of me. I couldn't find anything that looked like I could sleep in it without any trouble or without breaking it. I finally settled on some dangly pretty earrings I could wear when I went out. Hubby wasn't having it though. He would stress himself out every time I wore them thinking someone was going to steal them while we were on the motorcycle (that is a common problem in Punjab these days). So I quit wearing them and went back to my cheap $10 Body Rage earrings. MIL got all bothered and upset again. According to her a Punjabi wife must wear gold at all times. So off she went on a hunt to find earrings similar to my the ones I always wore. She tried to find someone who could make them in gold but to her dismay, no one could and some couldn't figure out that they had screws on the ends hidden under the little balls. She didn't give up though. She finally got someone to special make a pair of gold hoops that won't stab me in the head and will stay permanently closed. There's no easily breakable parts or anything. Never underestimate a determined woman lol.
Gold jewelry doesn't have the same markup here as it does in the US. I've had 14K gold that wasn't as pretty that cost $700 for a simple ring. Here my wedding ring is 24K and didn't cost anywhere near that. My earrings only cost about $300 and there's a lot more material than that same $700 ring. There's also a lot of unique styles here that I haven't seen anywhere else and my dad used to own a jewelry store so I had access to plenty of wholesale catalogs. I highly recommend that if you come to India, find a good shop that's trusted by your family and purchase something nice for yourself. You won't be sorry.