Embellishment of persona has always been one of the major attributes of Indians. Jewellery has been a trend as ancient as 5000 years back. Jewellery and Indian women has always been a great combination and it would be a rare sight to see an Indian woman sans jewellery.
Indian jewellery presents the ancient art of jewellery designing and amazing craftsmanship that is very unique. Apart from regular jewellery items that are worn by men and women on daily basis, special bijouterie is designed for special occasions like marriages, festivals, rituals and dances.
In India, jewellery is not just a means of adding glitter and attraction to the personality. Infact, it holds tremendous significance, especially for women. It is customarily worn as a mark of auspiciousness to invite good omen. It is also believed to strengthen various religious beliefs and for social security. It is associated with power, prosperity and status. Earlier both men and women used to wear ample of them but with the passage of time, men don’t really seem to be keen on wearing them, owing to the latest fashion trends that don’t give much importance to jewellery for men.
For a woman in India wearing jewellery signifies the status of the woman in society. For example, a woman wearing Mangalsutra, chooriyan, bichiye and maang-tika is identified as married. She wears them the moment she is declared as married, following certain marriage rituals like Mangalya Dharanam.
Similarly, the khandani jewellery like Patli haar or Rani haar holds lots of traditional significance for being passed on from one generation to another. These ethnic jewellery items are made up of pure gold, silver and are studded with real pearls, diamonds or stones. The jewellery styles may vary state-wise. There are many forms of Indian jewellery that have been in use during various eras, in various regions, by different communities on various occasions.
Indian Bridal Jewellery
The Indian bridal jewellery comprises of numerous adornments made for almost every part of the bride’s body - from head to toe. Complete bridal jewellery comprises of Maang-teeka, Maatha-patti, ear-rings, nose-ring, necklaces like Gul-Band and Patli-Haar, Baju-Bands, Bangles, Chooriyan, Finger-rings, Palm-jewellery, Tagri, Pajeb or Payal or anklets and toe-rings or Bichhiye.
A bride is gifted with lots of jewellery from her parents, in-laws and close relatives. Even now, the most common metal used for making bridal jewellery continues to be gold. Some of the gold-jewellery is stuffed with lac to give them a ‘solid’ shape and look.
In ancient times when gold was not mined, copper and its alloys - bronze and brass, were much in use for jewellery-making. Those times are referred to as Bronze period. With unique earthly looks, the copper jewellery holds lots of significance owing to its balancing quality. Copper is directly associated with Venus and is also known to be a soother and reliever from pain.
Not all ornaments are meant to be made of gold. There are certain ornaments like anklets, bichhiye that are not made of gold as the metal is not supposed to touch any part of the feet. The silver metal due to its raw shine is also used in making many other ornaments apart from those for the feet. Silver jewellery is a trend also among the tribals. Their costume is incomplete without silver adornments. These days, the jewellery made of oxidized silver metal is much in demand due to the rough and rugged looks that it gives.
This kind of jewellery was introduced in India by the Mughals. The precious or semi-precious stones, beads and crystals are embedded in gold ornaments with complete precision and craftsmanship. The art requires an exceptionally amazing skilled touch and patience. The jadau work involves designing, engraving, melting, filling and enameling. On one piece of Jadau jewellery, a team of craftsmen gets involved to give it that authentic and clear look. Jadau jewellery is prevalent in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Kutch regions.
Kundankari of jewellery is prevalent in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The process involves making holes in the precious metal, engraving the gems and stones by setting them in these holes perfectly. This kind of jewellery is rarely made of solid metal and is rather stuffed with Lac. Also known as ‘Jewellery of the Royals’, it has the stones like topaz, emerald, garnet, amethyst and rock crystal.
Lac is the natural resin that is used as a stuffing in the ornament. Originated from Rajasthan, this jewellery comes in various deigns and styles and is today much in trend. It is made of bright colors and shine due to the glass work done on them. The people in Rajasthan believe that wearing Lac jewellery gives a positive impression and brings good fortune. The making of this form of jewellery requires heating of the things to be stuffed, then mixing them by kneading and making dough-like substance. When stuffed in the ornament, it gives strengthens it and gives it a solid look. This may seem to be easy but actually is not and requires a good sense of accuracy.
Meenakari work is usually done on the reverse side of a Kundan ornament, so that the ornament can be used from the sides. It is also done on all the ornaments. This jewellery art also belongs to Rajasthan which was introduced by Raja Mansingh. The king called artisans and craftsmen from Lahore who along with the local craftsmen of Rajasthan came up with Meenakari jewellery. It involves the skillful pouring of the color on engraved designs or grooves. It is made in color contrasts that highlight the design pretty well.
As the name signifies, this kind of jewellery requires the inclusion of nine types of ratnas or stones on a single ornament. These nine stones that are used in the jewellery are Diamond, Topaz, Emerald, Ruby, Garnet, Coral, Sapphire and Pearl. Believed to be associated with various planets, all these stones are known to give power in some or the other way. Navratan jewellery comprises of ornaments like necklaces and ear-rings.
Pachchikam jewellery though gives crude and rugged looks, is pretty fragile in nature. Originated in the areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Kutch, this form of jewellery is made in Silver instead of gold and so is very affordable. The Pachchikam jewellery is not that popular as Lac and Kundan jewellery because of its minimum production by a handful of artisans in remote areas. These artisans, due to their conservative mindsets, don’t share this art and technique with anyone.
The intricate designs of Filigiri jewellery showcase the excellence of the craftsman to go to the minutest of details. The jewellery belongs to Odisha and parts of Andhra Pradesh. It is known for its delicate designs that are made by bending very thin wires that are hammered a number of times for thinnest look. The filigiri work is not only used in jewellery making, but also in many decorative commodities like show-pieces, flower vases, spoons, trays, boxes, brooches, pendants and hair-pins.
The jewellery made by tribal people of India, from available sources like elephant teeth, stones, sea shells, clay and bones is known as Tribal jewellery. The Banjaras of Rajasthan, tribes of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh, tribes like Karka Gallong of Arunachal Pradesh, the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia tribals, the Jarawa tribals of Andamans and the Bhutias of Sikkim introduced this form of jewellery. Today, this form of jewellery does not belong only to these tribals, but also to the entire world that is crazy after them. People love the ethnic look that is sported by these ornaments. The major attraction in this style of jewellery lies in its earthy, raw and rusty look which is now a trend for a perfect ‘Bindaas’ feel.
The prevalence of these adornments, travelling through the eras, is kept alive by the Indian culture and its traditions. Apart from this, even in the present day fashion scenario, though the trends and styles seem to change with a blink of an eye yet, these forms of Indian jewellery always stay there on the ramp.