Meenakari work is the art of enamelling a metal with vibrant designs. Objects ranging from jewellery to home decor items made of metals can be adorned with meenakari work in brilliant colours. It is an age old craft that originated in Persia and was introduced in India by the Mughals.
In the beginning of the 16th century, Raja Man Singh brought with him skilled Minkars from Lahore and set them up in Jaipur. Subsequently, Meenakari work took roots in India and Jaipur went on to become the hub of Meenakari work in the country ever since.
The process of creating a meenakari piece is complex. The metal sheet on which meenakari work is to be done is first fixed on a piece of lac. The design is further etched onto it. This creates grooves and walls on the metal because of the presence of the lac underneath. It is these grooves that hold colour. The enamel is then poured into the grooves and colours are fired one by one. This causes the enamel to melt and spread within the groove. Once the last colour has been fired, the metal is cooled and polished. While the grooves hold colour, the walls shine bright and reflect light.
The base metal for meenakari work has predominantly been silver because it works best with enamel. However, today one can find meenakari work on a wide range of metals like gold, silver and copper, with white metal being the most recent addition to the list. Even those not familiar with meenakari work would have noticed it on the ubiquitous ‘dry fruit’ boxes made of white metal which are hot favourites for gifting during the festive season.
While Meenakari work is used to adorn a wide range of lifestyle products, it is jewellery that it is famous for. Jhumkas, neckpieces and bangles with meenakari work are sought after for their exquisite design and unique appeal. Meenakari work in combination with kundan and polki stones has a regal effect, which is why it is extensively used in bridal jewellery. Meenakari work at the back of the kundan and polki pieces makes the jewellery reversible - so you get two designs for the price of one. The enamelwork on jewellery can be of two kinds - Ek rang khula and Pancharangi. Ek Rang Khula is nothing but meenakari work done with a single coloured enamel while pancharangi uses five different colours in the same piece.
The beauty of meenakari work lies in its versatility. Whether you team it with your bridal outfit or even wear it over a pair of jeans and off-shoulder blouse, the jewellery stands out for its scintillating design. The way you style meenakari jewellery depends on your personality, but one thing we can guarantee is that however you wear it, you will steal the show!
Today, Jaipur continues to be the hub for meenkari work, jewellery and other artifacts but the awareness around the craft and the demand for it have resulted in it being available online as well as all over the country. Owning an accessory with meenakari work on it speaks volumes about your discerning taste and style quotient. So go ahead and pick up a piece today!