Chennai’s Gem & Co. has been selling gorgeous Gama pens since the 1920s!

    The 93-year-old Gem & Co. is penning down stories with its handcrafted Gama pens. This heritage shop has a wide collection of antique fountain pens and has VVIP customers from all across the country and even abroad!

    Standing tall and unshaken since 1928, Gem & Co. is one of the oldest pen shops in India. It was started by N C Cunnan and Venkatarangam Shetty in the late 1920s with an idea to do something different. The duo chose the fountain pens as their product, as during that time, these pens used to be imported from abroad. This worked well, and they started importing pens from the US to India. With time, their sons took over the shop, and in the year 1985, the legendary Gem & Co. was finally passed down to the current owner Pratap Kumar, grandchild of N C Cunnan. ” The shop is named after a wrestling champion. I think they wanted to associate the pens with him and his strength.”, says Pratap Kumar.

    Gem & Co. is a heritage in itself. It still has decades-old furniture. There is a huge model of a fountain pen hanging on top. There is a workshop too where they keep the original tools that were used for the restoration earlier. “We still have these original tools, and many people visit us to see them. Also, many people visit this shop to buy Gama pens, used by their grandfathers.”, he says.

    Gama was originally designed in Madras and made in England. Later with time, people started manufacturing it in Mumbai too. ” During those days, there were many manufacturers in Bombay, and they were close to my grandfather. They would make pens for him, and he would sell them here. We also used to get it made from England. I still have Gama pens from there, and they are also over 100 years old.”, he adds.

    Gem & Co. has been in the business of making, selling, and repairing pens for more than 100 years now. You will find pens from every possible brand stacked neatly on rosewood glass shelves. Made of ebonite and handcrafted as per customers’ wishes, these Gama pens are gorgeous.

    “There are about 1,000 to 2,000 models in the market now, but we pick the best ones for our customers. Quality has always been a priority. We even had a factory of molded pens, and 3 more brands namely Alpha, Beta, Sigma that had the cheaper versions of Gama pens. But we closed them after a few years to focus on the handcrafted Gama pens.”, he says.

    Gem & Co. is inked heaven for all those who love fountain pens. Their most expensive Silver Filigree Pen cost around Rs. 4, 00,000 and it is completely handmade. ” Every part and each string has to be welded carefully. One silver filigree pen takes the artisan around 7 to 10 days to get ready. Sadly, in India, there are no takers even though the price is reasonable. These silver pens have a price-value of around 2 lacs to 5 lacs in other countries.”, says Pratap Kumar.

    Gem & Co.
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    Behind the pens!

    The Gama pens are made with a special type of ebonite. The artisan shapes them in a cylindrical form of 1-2 meters. After which, they cut it to the required size and turn it into pens. They do the polishing, finishing, fitting of the other parts, and then these brand new, gorgeous Gama pens are ready for writing.

    “One day we make all the caps, one day all the barrels. On average, we make around 5 pens a day. We have a technician, a helper, and that’s all. We balance the pens, make it comfortable for people, this where our expertise lies.”, says Pratap.

    Gem & Co. has customers from all over India and even from other countries. Many consulates like Singaporean, Korean and Japanese have got the names of their consulates engraved on the Gama Fountain pens. The Late Karunanidhi was also one of their customers, while his son MK Stalin (the current CM of Tamil Nadu) uses the same fountain pen.

    “The Late Hon Karunanidhi always sent his representatives across to buy Wality Pens from our shop. He always used our pens. MK Stalin must be using the same one as it has a sentimental value to him. We have many VVIP customers and I think It’s all because of the passion that I have for them. I think it runs in my blood.”, says Pratap.

    Pratap Kumar believes that the use of a fountain pen can make your handwriting pleasant. He says that these pens do not strain your fingers and wrist. Every fountain pen has slight friction that holds your writing and controls your movement on the paper. Other than offering a delightful writing experience, Pratap Kumar also believes that fountain pens are eco-friendly too.

    “When you buy a fountain pen it lasts for at least 2 years. Just imagine how much plastic waste you save by using these pens and not the ballpoints, and gel pens. Also, you don’t bother when you lose a plastic pen as it is cheap so you end up taking another pen from the drawer, and the used one goes into the dustbin.”, he explains.

    Gem & Co.

    In the world of electronic devices, where everybody is typing on the screen, there are very few people who use paper and ink, and that’s what we all think, right? But to our surprise, Pratap Kumar says there is a visible growth. ” People have started using fountain pens a lot these days. There are many customers from the IT background who are using fountain pens to jot down their thoughts every day. It’s not in a huge number, but I have seen people, and they even thank me.”, he adds.

    Gem & Co. earlier had 16 staff members. But today, their workforce is not more than five. Talking about the future of the shop, Pratap says, ” I hope it never shuts down. A lot of people have been asking about it, but I don’t think about it now. When the time comes, I’ll see, and figure out.”

    We hope to see this shop make fountain pens in the future too, and if you are visiting Chennai next time, buy one for yourself.

    Also Read: Fans of actress Nidhhi Agerwal built a temple on her in Chennai as a gift on Valentine’s Day!

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