Costume jewelleries are now being transformed into statement pieces

Salvador Dali once compared memories to jewels saying that, “It is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.”

Perhaps he is right. Costume jewellery has come a long way from paste imitations of precious pieces, worn to safeguard the real ones from possible theft. It now is a statement in itself. Think Coco Chanel’s long faux pearl necklaces, Miriam Haskell’s colourful rhinestone and bead encrusted filigree work, Kenneth Jay Lane’s fun, flashy pieces, Stanley Hagler’s myriad range of Christmas tree pins, Elsa Schiaparelli’s surrealist designs, Daniel Swarovski’s crystal creations and Eugene Joseff’s ornate, almost baroque pieces that once adorned most of Hollywood.

Closer home, though gold continues to remain a clear favourite, we have a tradition of beautifully-crafted pieces in a myriad variety of materials such as the lac bangles of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the silver filigree of Orissa, the Pachchikam jewellery of Gujarat, the Dokra pieces of Orissa, the Bidri and Channapatna jewellery from Karnataka, tribal jewellery fashioned out of an eclectic range of substances including shell, coins, glass, bones, beads, ivory, chains, feathers, cane, wood and silver among others.

“Jewellery has always been an integral part of our heritage,” says Kakoli Roy of Ethnique by Kakoli Roy which offers a range of statement costume jewellery among other things. “Oh the glitter and the sparkle, the sounds of tinkling bells of the ghungroos, the filigree craftsmanship of silver neckpieces, the delicately carved peacock earrings with meenakari work on them! It is such a joy to be around jewels,”

According to Kakoli, costume jewellery has long been a part of Indian culture, “Long before costume jewellery became popular in rest of India, the Bengali karigars had mastered the art of coating silver jewellery with gold polish to make them look like real deal and yet it cost a fraction of their original counterparts.”

Affordability has always been the USP of costume jewellery and with skyrocketing gold prices, it continues to be one of the biggest reasons why people opt for it. Rimi Das, who loves to wear and collect jewellery agrees, “I prefer investing in silver and costume pieces rather than gold as I can buy more in a variety of designs for the same cost.”

Madhavi Rongola of The Yellow Button Store that curates clothing, jewellery, bags, baskets, home accessories agrees, “Price is a big factor in why people chose costume over real jewellery. Jewellery buying is very impulsive. You go to a store and if you like the look and it’s within a certain price range you don’t think twice before buying it.”

But affordability doesn’t translate into tawdry and tacky. According to Kakoli, “Costume jewellery gives everyone an opportunity to show off gorgeous pieces without the feeling that it is unaffordable but that doesn’t mean a compromise on quality. They are crafted beautifully nowadays and so many of our highly skilled karigars who previously only dealt with precious stones and gems are now working in this market.”

“Often each one of these pieces are a work of art in itself because it was conceptualised from an idea or a feeling and then goes through a whole process before it is presented to you,” says Chinanshu Sharma, a Bangalore-based artist and jewellery designer whose brand Paarisha offers a collection of hand-made jewellery created out of a diverse range of materials including yarn, metal alloys, semi-precious stones, recycled car and cycle parts, denim, rope raffia, grass, banana fibre and, “anything that catches my eye,” she says, “People who buy my jewellery are those who appreciate something unique, hand-crafted and artistic.”

“Costume jewellery today often looks like the real thing,” says Madhavi. “The best thing is that it can be mixed and matched to your outfit for every occasion.”

Rimi agrees, “I love that my jewellery can be coordinated to match every outfit I wear — Indian or western. Accessories do change the look of an outfit completely.”

“Custom made jewellery is a huge trend now days,” says Jyothi Radhakrishnan, an IT professional who designs jewellery and sells under the label Mayuri Jewels. “A lot of people send across a photo of their clothes and want their jewellery to be custom made for it, making it very exclusive.”

And what essentially matters is how something makes you look and feel. Kakoli agrees, “I think it’s important each of us is in tune with our own sense of aesthetics and what suits us.”

“I think jewellery does so much more than just complete your look — it makes you feel beautiful,” says Nagma Shah, a jewellery collector. “I can be having a terrible day but knowing that I'm wearing a pair of pretty payals or playing with a gorgeous silver ring can make me feel better. Jewellery is this intrinsic part of a woman's wardrobe — feminine, pretty and at times even a source of strength and pride.”