Glorious Glitter

Glorious Glitter

What ensemble is complete without a piece or two of breathtaking jewellery? Whether it’s for a simple function or an elaborate festival, jewellery is something most women can’t do without. The beautiful blue of a sapphire against a lustrous gold frame, the bottle green of an emerald set in a silver pendant, and the dark, blood red of a royal ruby against a platinum necklace – they all captivate the senses, and these are just conventional stones.
 
Jewellery is an integral part of many women’s lifestyles, and it also holds paramount importance in Indian history. The making of jewellery is considered an art form as it goes through many generations of artisans who design and create these scintillating pieces – necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, maang tikas and much
more.
 
Jewellery-making in India goes back 5,000 years ago. Its origins lie in its purpose – to fulfill women’s desires to adorn themselves. Ever since, the Indian woman has been clad in jewellery both on occasions and every day. The vast majority of women in the country wears at least some small bit of it.
 
Indian jewellery is unique in its design and workmanship, and plays a crucial part in traditional dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak. Indian women wear emeralds, diamonds, pearls, rubies, sapphires and other precious and semi-precious stones. Every culture has its own variety, too – Temple jewellery from South India, the Polki and Meenakari of Rajasthan, and Jadau from Gujarat.
 
Meenakari Jewellery 
Meenakari
 
Of all the different kinds of jewellery in India, Meenakari is among the most popular. Originating in Rajasthan, this enamel art is said to have been brought to the region by Raja Mansingh of Amber. When local artisans met the Lahori craftsmen who had been invited to Rajasthan, their individual crafts merged, and the intricate art of Meenakari was born.
 
Meenakari work entails moulding stones and enamel onto precious metals, most often gold. This jewellery is usually colourful and contains very traditional shapes, like peacocks and paisleys. First, the gold frame for the jewellery is made, onto which brightly coloured substances are then applied.
 
Although Meenakari work was originally done primarily on gold, the art today is more diverse and can be done on nearly any kind of metal. True to its Mughal roots, one will often find that each piece of rich Meenakari jewellery has a sense of royalty about it. When the art form first came to be, Mughal artefacts like pandans and sheeshas with intricate Meenakari work were very popular.
Particularly intricate, since the surface area of each item can be quite small, Meenakari is divided by the number of colours used. Apart from the different shades of enamel, it can be transparent, translucent or opaque.
 
The first kind is called ‘ek rang khula meena’. As the name suggests, it uses one colour of enamel. It is often transparent, and the underlying gold work stands out. The second kind is more colourful –‘panchrangi meena’, or five-coloured enamel. This style of Meenakari usually uses opaque and transparent enamels in white, pale blue, dark blue, green and red.
 
Kundan Jewellery 
Kundan
 
Among the most worn and adored of the many forms of Indian jewellery, Kundan work was born in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Kundan was initially an elite style made only for royalty. It’s created using diamonds, gold and precious stones like rubies and emeralds. Jaipur is a major hub of Kundan jewellery, and most pieces originate there.
 
A popular type of Kundan jewellery is the Meena Kundan, which has enameling (like that of Meenakari), on the back of the piece. This form is frequently known as Bikaneri or Jaipuri jewellery.
 
Kundan jewellery is usually set in a gold sheet that has been beaten to a foil, serving as the base for the stones. Lac is applied on the foil, holding the stone in place. The molten gold is then introduced between the gaps; it acts as a mould and seals the stones in.
 
Tarakasi Jewellery 
Tarakasi
 
Odisha is home to a lot of India’s art, so it’s no surprise that one of the most exquisite jewellery crafts began there. Tarakasi is the art of silver filigree originating in the Cuttack area, created by the artisans of the Eastern shores.
 
The craftsmanship of this intricate wire art involves the use of sterling silver. This form demands a high level of skill and commands tremendous admiration; silver is one of the softest metals, and creating filigree from it is a painstaking process. It begins with forming the silver into a very thin wire that is then either flattened and carved, or moulded into shapes with fire. Tarakasi silver figurines, religious pieces, and other artefacts are quite popular. For silver buffs, however, there is nothing quite like Tarakasi jewellery.
 
During Dussera celebrations in Odisha, Tarakasi work can be seen all over. Though not very common, filigree jewellery can also be made from gold. It is believed that the Nizams would present their visitors with filigree gifts, and even today one can see Tarakasi jewellery being made and sold in Hyderabad’s Old City.
 
 
Thewa Jewellery 
Thewa
 
Like filigree, Thewa is a carved jewellery form from Rajasthan, originating in the Mughal era. Thewa jewellery uses two basic materials: glass and 23-karat gold.
 
The exceptional art of Thewa jewellery was created by Nathuji Soni, who passed the secrets of the trade and the skill of the craft down through his lineage. The most extraordinary thing about Thewa is that even today, the secret of the skill remains within the Soni clan and is closely guarded. They are believed to be the world’s only manufacturers of Thewa.
 
Like most artwork from Rajasthan, the motifs used in Thewa jewellery are usually traditional. The process is lengthy and can take up to a month. The exacting craft requires extreme skill and patience, and begins with making a paste of coloured terracotta pieces. The paste is then spread on top of a slab of wood, and a fine sheet of gold is placed on top. The gold sheet is carved, leaving an intricately designed cage of gold against coloured glass. But this is only a rough guess; the real secrets of the Thewa art form remain hidden – one reason for the popularity it enjoys.
 
 
Polki Jewellery 
Polki
 
Polki is one of the oldest art forms, one that enjoyed great patronage in the royal courts of Rajasthan during the Mughal era. This antique jewellery is made using uncut diamonds embedded in a gold or silver base. Polki diamonds are mounted on a layer of gold metal foil artistically painted with enamel before the stones are placed on it. Although the reverse side is often left open to increase sparkle, it can also feature enamel work. Polki jewellery is very expensive and is mostly worn at weddings and for other formal occasions.
 
Although there is frequently confusion between the appearance of Kundan and Polki jewellery, the main difference lies in the stone. Polki uses real, uncut diamonds; Kundan applies glass imitations of the same. The lustre you get in Polki is much greater than that of Kundan. Every piece of Polki jewellery is meticulously chosen for its carats, colour, clarity and cut, only then is it crafted into a beautiful piece.
Polki is considered to be heritage jewellery because it infuses the age-old traditions of intricate detailing and craftsmanship. The graceful cutwork designs and intricate embellishments make Polki jewellery an absolute stunner.
 
 Jadau Jewellery
Jadau
 
Jadau jewellery originated in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, a gift to India from the Mughals. In this form, you’ll find pieces of gold lavishly furnished with precious and semi-precious stones, and decorated with enamel work on the body. Unlike Kundan and Polki, in which the stones are pasted into gold blocks, Jadau jewellery involves placing uncut stones on molten gold, which then sets as the gold solidifies.
 
Although the tradition of Jadau work began back in the Mughal period, Indian craftsmen made it popular by adding their indigenous skills. Also known as engraved jewellery, it is a perfect example of royal, traditional Indian ornaments that are worn during auspicious occasions.
 
In Jadau, uncut diamonds are used as the central stone, while Meenakari is done on the back. The greatest care and attention are given to the detail on each piece the master craftsmen create; every stone is first set in silver foil before being fused with a finishing of pure gold.
 
Temple Jewellery 
Temple
 
Temple jewellery is the kind used to adorn idols in temples and puja areas. In the olden days, deities were anointed with chunky, beaded necklaces or crafted jewellery with intricate filigree. Sometimes, other ornaments were used – chunky bangles, earrings, nose rings and anklets. This jewellery was later worn by temple dancers and has now become one of the most popular branches of traditional Indian jewellery.
 
Temple jewellery pieces are crafted from the finest gold, embedded with precious stones of great value.
Hailing from South India, this type of jewellery was prevalent during the celebrated historical periods of the Chola and Pandya dynasties, and the Krishnadeva Raya rule from the 9th to 16th centuries. During that time, Temple jewellery was worn by kings, queens and others who held important positions. Skilled goldsmiths and craftsmen dedicated themselves to the art form.
 
Believed to be auspicious harbingers of good luck, Temple jewellery pieces are often created in the shape of a Ganesh or the sacred symbol Om. These can be worn as necklaces, earrings, pendants, bracelets, bangles, armlets, nose rings, anklets, rings, toe rings, brooches, or even belts.