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Last in a line

Solomoni Biumaiono
Thursday, January 24, 2013

EIGHTY-YEAR-OLD Bhagwanji P Jogia is one of the last remaining jewellers in Fiji who actually migrated from India.

Jogia has spent the last 45 years in building his jewellery business in the country after inheriting it from his father Popatlal V Jogia.

Jogia was born in the coastal city of Porbandar in Gujarat State. The town is well known for two reasons. Firstly it is the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi and secondly, it was home to the majority of jewellers who had migrated to Fiji after the Indenture.

Speaking through his heir and second son Bharat, Jogia said the only reason his father settled in Fiji was love.

"My mother was born in Fiji in Nadi and he chose to come over here to be with her," Bharat said of his father.

The elder Jogia has aged but his demeanour and physicality seemed like that of a 60-year-old.

Jogia came to settle in 1968 as a dashing 33-year-old straight from the motherland and he established himself in Nadi. He was not the first Jogia to have travelled to Fiji. His father, Popatlal came in 1921 to sell his jewellery and stayed for seven years.

"My grandfather was a jeweller too and he was hawking his pieces of jewellery, selling from door to door," Bharat said.

After staying two years in Nadi with his wife, the couple decided to move to Suva and there they built and established their family and business.

Jogia's name spread fast as jewellers with his skills were rare commodities in colonial Fiji which even impressed the then government minister Charles Stinson. In his prime, Jogia mastered the art of filigree which requires delicate and intricate handiwork on ornaments of silver and gold.

"He specialises in jewellery manufacture but since he's 80, he still works but the sophisticated work has stopped. Now it's just plain and polishing works," Bharat said.

Jogia had three sons, Harish the eldest, Bharat and the youngest is Prakash and all followed him into the industry.

The eldest Harish passed away many years ago and so the yoke fell on Bharat while Prakash struck out on his own and started his own jewellery shop in the northern town of Labasa.

"Before, they used to manufacture jewellery in Fiji now it is not like that anymore. It's either they import it from Singapore or India. People still sell jewellery in Fiji but not in the manufacturing part of it.

"This business has been passed down through our family say for eight to 10 generations. It is a family business that is handed down through generations.

"For me I think I will carry on for another 10 years from now on," Bharat said with some finality.

His two sons and a daughter have their own careers and families. One son is a Certified Practising Accountant in Australia while the other is a government economist. His daughter too has her own family and career.

Bharat says he is the last from his father's line to be in the jewellery business.

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