Gold jewellery has been a major part of Indian heritage for the last five thousand years. The age-old temples of India depict idols as well as human sculptures adorned with jewellery. The ancient Indus valley civilisation also suggests that gold jewellery was used by both men and women. The easy liquidity of gold makes it a favoured financial asset that is viewed as recession or contingency proof. The act of obsessing over gold has been justified in India for centuries. This gold obsession has led to the emergence of different types of Indian jewellery, with intricate craftsmanship.
While the elaborate Indian jewellery craftsmanship originated years ago, they still hold a cherished presence in the Indian jewellery market. The crafts are incorporated into traditional as well as contemporary types of Indian jewellery.
Modern Indian women often prefer contemporary jewellery as their day as well as evening accessory because the contemporary Indian jewellery is a unique fusion of Indian and western designs.
This jewellery integrates non-traditional shapes like swirls, geometric shapes, waves and unconventional western motifs like dragonflies and dolphins. Indian contemporary jewellery beautifully merges the Indian art of jewellery making with modern shapes.
Contemporary types of Indian jewellery give the modern woman the benefit of displaying chic new world art and being able to accessories more casual outfits. At Strand of Silk, we offer bespoke stylish gold jewellery pieces from various designers and jewellers, which have been chosen to suit modern sensibilities.
The traditional types of Indian jewellery are revered for weddings and other traditional affairs. Below we take a look at some of the types of Indian jewellery that fits more traditional occasions and the techniques used to make them.
Types of Indian Jewellery
Meenakari is a well known technique used in Indian gold jewellery designs. In this style of design, the gold is engraved with nature inspired designs like peacocks, flowers, etc. The groove that is left after engraving is filled with coloured enamel dusts. The brightly coloured enamel dusts are then fused with the metal by firing each groove individually, which lets the melted dust coat each groove precisely. The enamelling and firing process is repeated for each groove. Once the colours have cooled down they are polished with agate (a crystal) for lustre.
This technique was invented in Iran and was brought by the Mughals to India and its neighbouring countries. Raja Sawai Mansingh from Amer was a connoisseur of arts and he invited Lahore-based skilled Meenakari artists to his kingdom. Through these artisans Meenakari was introduced to the local jewellery makers. Finding patronage in Rajasthan, the Indian gold jewellery designs using Meenakari art spread to Punjab, Delhi and Lucknow during the Mughal era.
Traditional Meenakari Jewellery
Contemporary Meenakari Jewellery by Roopa Vohra
This is a technique used to create unique Indian gold jewellery designs with precious, semi-precious stones and also pearls, crystals and glass beads. The Jadau necklaces have a regal opulent look and therefore are a favourite choice with brides, especially in the north of India. This jewellery demands skilled craftsmanship, which was also a gift to India by the Mughals. In India the roots of this jewellery can be traced to the Bikaner region of Rajasthan.
To make Jadau jewellery, the gold base of the jewellery is melted and the pliable metal is then studded with the desired stones. Once the base gold cools, the embellishments are set without the use of adhesive or engravings. It can take one whole day to set 4-5 stones on gold. Gold foils are soldered around the set stones for reinforcement and Meenakari work generally adorns the reverse side of Jadau jewellery.
The technique has spread to different centres of Rajasthan and Gujarat, which are the main hubs of Jadau jewellery in India. The Jadau jewellery can be further classified into Kundan and Polki jewellery, as they use the same Jadau technique for Indian gold jewellery designs.
Polkis are uncut diamonds that are obtained from mines naturally and they do not undergo any further processing for enhancement. Polkis gives the Jadau Indian gold jewellery designs an innate glossy shine. Polki jewellery is generally very expensive as it consists of a combination of pure gold and unrefined diamonds. The Polki jewellery is the original Jadau jewellery adopted from the Mughals.
Traditional Jadau Jewellery (Using Polki)
Kundan means pure gold and it is called so because this jewellery needs a high quality of molten gold for exceptional results. Unlike Polki that uses uncut diamonds, Kundan uses colourful gems, pearls and even glass beads as settings on gold to create jewellery. Kundan is extensively used in Rajasthan for jewellery. Indian gold jewellery designs using Kundan technique originated in Rajasthan modifying the Jadau jewellery, by replacing Polkis with other embellishments.
Contemporary Jadau Jewellery (Using Kundan)
In this type of jewellery, nature or Indian deity inspired designs are etched with a scriber on 23K thin gold sheet. The Indian gold jewellery designs carved out on the sheet are then fused with warmed glass or lac. The resulting work is striking with the coloured glass background beautifully merging with gold to highlight the miniature gold artwork. The designer Roopa Vohra has popularised Thewa jewellery by incorporating this style in her jewellery collections.
Thewa is one of the unique Indian gold jewellery designs that originated in the Pratapgarh district of Rajasthan around 300 years ago. Nathu Lal Sonelal was the first goldsmith to create this innovative style of jewellery in 1707. This exotic jewellery found patronage under Maharaja Sumant Singh and was soon accepted by other royalties of Rajasthan. The descendants of Sonelal, carried the tradition of making Thewa and today Pratapgarh remains as the biggest centre for the manufacture of this type of jewellery.
Traditional Thewa jewellery
Contemporary Thewa Accesories
Moving away from the north western jewellery centres of India, the east also offers unique Indian gold jewellery designs in the form of Filigree work.
Indian gold jewellery designs using Filigree are also called Telkari jewellery meaning wire work jewellery. In this jewellery style delicate threads of gold or silver are fused together and bent creatively to create intricate lacework resembling designs. The designs are generally repeated in patterns and soldering is used to fuse the patterns together.
This type of jewellery can be traced back to the Mesopotamian civilization dating back to 3000 BC. It is believed that the Greek settlers brought this jewellery art to India, especially in the north eastern regions. Cuttack in Odisha is the main hub of the traditional form of this jewellery and it is known as tarakasi in Odiya. To find Filigree work in silver, Andhra Pradesh is a renowned centre.
Traditional Filigree Necklace
Contemporary Filigree Gold Earrings
This type of jewellery design originated in the south of India and the Indian gold jewellery designs that adorned the Indian idols in Temples were categorised as Temple jewellery. This type of jewellery displays heavy use of gold metal and displays patterns of idols, elephants and architectural designs in a repetitive manner. Carving handiwork on gold (nakkashi) is used in the creation of this jewellery. After adorning the idols these jewellery were displayed by the temple dancers and over a period of time it found its presence in the bridal trousseau. Today, the Temple jewellery has become a distinct part of Indian gold jewellery designs considered during wedding shopping.
The Temple jewellery originated during the 12th century under the reign of Chola dynasty in the south of India. Sometimes, the Temple jewellery is also adorned with stones called kemp stones. What makes the Temple jewellery unique from the other jewelleries is the religious sentiment, it exhibits.
Traditional Temple Jewellery
Contemporary Temple Jewellery
The above types are the main Indian gold jewellery designs. Gold designs may see further variations in different regions like the Thushi necklace of Maharashtra. These necklaces are made of golden beads tightly woven together using leather or other strands. The gold beads are individually designed and then brought together in Thushi. Each region has its own variations and additions to the Indian gold jewellery designs.
The various artistic types of Indian jewellery have enhanced the gold fascination among the Indian women. Old is gold but gold jewellery will never be old for the Indian jewellery market with the exotic modern twist.
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