|Related Links:||Articles on features|
|Letters Menu||Archival Menu|
Elaborate golden, filigreed tilaris and exotic, multi-tiered bracelets nestle cheek-by-jowl with intricately wrought golden earrings and diamonds set in golden rings of both traditional and modern design.
And there are brooches and pendants and clips and just about every sort of jewellery with which we adorn ourselves in various degrees, satisfying the same desire to be regal and splendid that moved ancient Egyptians and other peoples to fashion ornate pieces in gold, gems, enamel and glass beads.
The display takes pride of place in the Stabroek Market, just inside the main entrance, under the clock steeple, the establishment of L. Seepersaud Maraj and Sons.
Those responsible for designing and fashioning the precious pieces are Heera, Sharma and Ram Maraj, with their wives Molly, Savitri and Kamla.
And they have been at it for many years.
Fifty-three year old Sharma Maraj recalls being taken by his parents to the Stabroek Market when he was a toddler, and, along with his brother Ram, being put on a blanket to spend the day, as his Mum and Dad, Seepersaud and Sukhia Maraj sold their jewellery from a showcase.
Seepersaud and Sukhia Maraj had been in the market at least since 1935.
“ We’re not sure what year they went there, but we do have records telling us that they were there in 1935,” Sharma explained in an interview last week.
From those impressionable ages, the two brothers, along with the eldest, Heera, absorbed the sights and sounds and colour and bustle of the market. Time for primary school, and Heera walked the two younger ones across to St. Andrew’s. Later, Sharma and Ram were off to Central High, and then to the University of Guyana where they gained Bachelor’s in Social Sciences degrees, majoring in business administration.
Along the way, school holidays were spent at the jewellery shop in the market.
“As youngsters, we grumbled about this,” Sharma recalls, “ but now we are thankful that our father ensured that he inculcated in us a love for the business and a positive work ethic.”
L. Seepersaud Maraj was a hard worker who bristled with ambition and who took the time to mould his sons after himself.
As a lad he worked as a mule boy at Diamond Sugar Estate on the East Bank Demerara. When he was off the job, he spent much time at the jewellery establishment of a friend, and soon he became expert at bending wires of gold to make filigree patterns. Eventually he ventured on his own as a manufacturer and peddler of gold jewellery.
He went through the villages on the West and East Demerara, selling his necklaces and bracelets and rings and brooches from a mantle. At times his customers could not pay for the pieces all at once, and a sort of balance-parcel arrangement was made.
L.Sepersaud Maraj died in 1973 at 62.
And the family business goes on.
When Stabroek Market celebrated its centenary in 1981, the City Council presented L. Seepersaud Maraj and Sons with a certificate of appreciation for being the good tenants they are. They made a golden tilari for Queen Elizabeth 11 when she visited, and a golden multi-tiered bracelet for the Duchess of Kent when she came with her husband for our Independence celebrations. For these, the jewellers received certificates from the Mayor’s office for jobs well done.
Recently, they were honoured with the International Gold Star for Quality by Business Initiative Directions (BID) in Paris. It was the first time a Guyanese or Caribbean firm was awarded a gold medal by the independent organisation which promotes quality culture in 163 countries.
Being a family business in the true sense of the word, the jewellers offer a service that is personalised, and their patrons find this truly rewarding.
“They keep coming to us, and they bring friends and relatives who visit from overseas,” according to Sharma. “ We have built up a considerable overseas clientele, and many new customers come to us saying that they were told about us by some friend.”.
Customers trust them, leaving their pieces to be cleaned or repaired, at times not even asking for receipts for the necklaces or rings left behind.
Even the craftsmen at the establishment’s workshop come in families, as fathers retire and give way to their sons, fashioning designs created by Molly, Savitri and Kamla, the wives of the Maraj brothers.
The designs now accommodate a growing line for men, as they find men are wearing more jewellery than they used to.
“More and more men come asking for necklaces and wrist-bands and even earrings,” says Sharma. “But we draw the line at studs to be pierced into eyebrows and all that; we will not contribute to such self-mutilation.
The Maraj family wears all this success like a comfortable garment. About them there is an aura of both confidence and humility. They make friends easily, with the distinct impression that they are grateful for the good favour which has come their way.
Devout Hindus, they eschew the night-life so favoured by those in their social bracket, and spend quiet evenings at home with family and friends.
The brothers are pleased with their success and not only for themselves.
“If our dad were alive, he would be very proud of us”, Sharma says.
The Seepersaud brothers have plans for their business, but this they are keeping to themselves, for the time being.
Whatever they do in the future, there are strong indications that they will continue to be successful.
The strong foundation on which L. Seepersaud Maraj and Sons rests could hardly lead to anything else.