Craft traditions

JEWELLERY

In India, jewels have been thought to possess qualities that elevate them from being mere articles of adornment. Jewels are believed to possess attributes that protect the wearer from evil spirits.

By means of shaping, punching, engraving, enamelling and inlaying techniques, beautiful ornaments are fashioned by gold and silversmiths in almost every corner of India.

Perhaps the earliest finds in jewellery have been excavated from Chalcolothic sites. Highly-decked terracotta figures, copper rings, beads, bangles and hairpins found here are dated between 3500 B.C. and 1997-2000 B.C. The jewellery belonging to the Harappa and Mohenjodaro cultures reveals a high degree of skill and craftsmanship.

The jewellery of the later period is reflected in the sculptures at Bharut, Sanchi, Amarnath and Orissa, and these have influenced the later Indian jewellery both in design and craftsmanship.

Under the Muslim sovereigns, gold and silver jewellery became more and more elaborately embellished with precious stones and enamelling. The kundan work of Gujarat and Rajasthan is the influence of Mughals.

Delhi and Jaipur are known for meenakari, the enamel work on gold. Theva of Rajasthan is an extremely fine work in gold leaf depicting scenes like rasalila. In Cuttack, Orissa, attardans or rosewater sprinklers, bowls and decorative animal and bird, especially peacock figures are some of the articles made in the filigree technique.

Most jewellery of Ladakh consists of fi (amber), churu (coral), yu (turquoise) and tiny seed pearls made into necklaces and earrings. Perak is a fascinating ornament of this region.

Motifs of the sun, moon, naga or serpent and images of deities are predominant in the jewellery of the southern states. The thali, an essential component of the marriage ceremony of many communities, is a gold necklace consisting of numerous emblems of which the thali, usually a phallic symbol, hangs in the centre.

Profusion in use of jewellery is still a feature of the rural country side. The folk and tribal jewellery of India is so varied, both in materials used, which include lac, glass, shells and beads. Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and the tribal zones in central, eastern and southern India are renowned for ornaments in silver and a particular type of white metal, an alloy of copper or tin and pewter, that imitates silver.


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