The story behind the meena and kundan jewellery

Zoya, the diamond boutique by Tanishq, was transformed into a mini lec-dem workshop of sorts. In one corner, artisans Chanchal Kumar Soni, Balkishan Soni, Bharat Soni and Yogesh sat with their tools, demonstrating the delicate process that a piece of meenakari jewellery goes through. While Balkishan and Bharat do the gadai (making the frame into which the stones are set), Chanchal Kumar does the delicate meenakari, while Yogesh does the jadai (setting the stones), in that order. Hailing from Jaipur, they represent the State that is the thriving centre of meenakari in the country now.

The session was organised for women entrepreneurs from the Young FICCI Ladies Organisation (YFLO), where tips on buying diamonds and details on the processes behind kundan and meenakari jewellery were doled out.

While there are many who see meenakari as a dilution of gold's yellow brilliance, the delicacy of effort that goes behind its making, and the finished product with its subtle mix of colour and enamel design, has its fans.

“Benarasi meenakari used a mixture of glass powder and sandal oil, which was then put in a furnace. It was the dominant form of meena once. Then many in the trade died and there was a shift of design from Lucknow to Bikaner,” said Sangeeta Dewan, head of design, Zoya.

“If you see the polki (uncut diamond) getting black, it is because the kundan has not been done properly or because there's a vacuum inside, because of which air enters and oxidises it,” said the design head, speaking on kundan, the other popular form of stone jewellery.

A base is prepared directly on wax, depending on the size of the polki that is fit inside, she added, also explaining how the linking of jewellery units is done to make the piece flexible. The daank-making process, where the daank (the cast) is stuck to the back of every polki, was also touched upon.

“In the ‘80s, kundan jewellery was heavy and used a lot of lac. Today, it is much lighter,” Sangeeta added.

A tip you could use: Wear perfume for sometime before putting on the jewellery.

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