Traditional Indian Jewellery

Ganesha Temple jewellery from Amrapali   | Photo Credit: Company Pic

Little girls all over the country, no matter whether they grew up in the chilly north or sultry south of India, have had a penchant for pendants and a bias for bling. They try on their mother's jewellery and wait for the day when they will be able wear the large and lovely pieces with equal grace. The love for all things sparkly only grows as they get older and soon, the heavy gold rings sit light on their fingers.

Jewellery in India has always carried with it deep emotional attachment, which comes through its historical importance. New pieces of jewellery are worth more when saved and treasured for the next generation. We look at two of the most traditional forms of jewellery in India, one which graced the homes of the South and the other which brought glittering beauty to the North.

Temple treasures

For women in South India, a trip to the temple might be about prayer, but it is also about catching a glimpse of the idol covered in beautiful gold jewellery. These pieces have long held the fascination of the people, and centuries ago, were crafted solely with the purpose of adoring the idol. But as time went on, dancers who regaled audiences at the temple with their renditions of devotional pieces began to wear imitations of the jewellery style adopted for the idols. Along with the spread of Bharatanatyam, temple jewellery became an accessible style and soon made its way into world of trousseau and heirloom pieces.

Vintage pieces which are centuries old were made entirely in gold, but over the years, pure silver dipped and coated in gold became the norm. Shiny rubies and emeralds are set in these pieces in attractive patterns that catch the eye. Temple jewellery is generally large and chunky, with figures of various gods and goddesses in gold fused to or forming the pendant on pearl string necklaces. Orra has an all-gold piece that is all the bling you need while Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers in Chennai introduces the traditional red and green stones in their design-heavy pieces. Some pendants also resemble the ‘gopuram' or temple entrance towers in design and these are mainly studded with rubies. Clusters of pearls complete the pieces inspired by nature and the various religious symbols. Cummerbands, earrings, armlets, brooches and head-pieces are also crafted in this centuries-old style. For the truly antique-inspired look, women wear head-pieces that are strung along the lines of their braid, adding sparkle and shine no matter which way they turn.

The perfect setting

One of the oldest and most labour-intensive forms of jewellery found in certain regions of North India is the Jadau style, and through the years, its popularity has grown in the south too. The Jadau technique is believed to have been brought to India by the Mughals but Indian artisans have perfected the craft and added their unique touches, enough to make it their own. Combined with pure gold or “kundan” and beautiful Meenakari work, Jadau jewellery has delighted many through the centuries. Its association with royalty adds to its place of prestige and allure. This style has its centres in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The creation of one piece of Jadau jewellery involves the work a group of artisans, each assigned a specific task. While one craftsman makes the basic design, another handles the engraving and setting while a third carries out the enamel work. Kundan is added at the end by an artisan to add more gold to the piece. The process of Jadau making involves beating or heating pure gold until it is pliable, creating a frame and motif, filling lac in the hollow frame and setting precious stones in the appropriate spaces. Once the stones are set, using only heated gold and no other adhesive, the enameller proceeds with the Meenakari work, patiently working on the piece one colour at a time. This time-consuming process results in a stunning piece of jewellery that was and still is fit for the kings.

The motifs commonly used in Jadau jewellery are those of flowers, leaves and animals. Rubies, emeralds and uncut diamonds are frequently used to create the look of luxury. Jaipur Gems specialises in jadau work while both Tikamdas Motiram Jewellers in Mumbai and Minawala celebrate the union of polki and gold in their pieces. It is the combination of colours and stones that give Jadau jewellery its visual appeal. Plus, true lovers of jewellery will always appreciate the craft that gave rise to the stunner.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 9:09:29 PM |

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