Passage to India

Jaipur has long been the world capital of colored gems and the craftsmen who cut them. Today it's a haven for jewelry designers, like Marie-Hèlÿne de Taillac, who make it their business to buy the best stones

THE GUARD SITTING in a plastic garden chair in the Gem Palace garage may or may not be listening as I spell my name for the second time. "Marie-Hélène. I'm here to see Mah-ree Eh-len," I insist, mindful that his reserve could be linked to the millions of dollars in jewels just upstairs. His wobbly head shake becomes more vigorous. "He only knows Gujarati. He says you can go up," a male voice calls out.

French jewelry designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac has agreed to take me on an insider's gem-shopping adventure here in Jaipur, where many of the world's colored stones—emeralds...

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