Precious India: jewelry traditions of one of the most mysterious countries in the world

Residents of India cannot imagine their life without jewelry: if in other countries the demand for jewelry is falling, here it is only growing. Together with an expert in precious stones, we understand the most impressive jewelry making techniques that are known all over the world.

Драгоценная Индия: ювелирные традиции одной из самых загадочных стран мира

India is a country where people’s lives and jewelry are closely intertwined with each other. For five thousand years, jewelry has been part of the country’s culture. Jewelry here is like a set of pronounced symbols and codes by which others can determine a person’s well—being, marital status, status in society and taste in almost an instant.

When choosing jewelry, residents often prefer those products that were created by local manufacturers, designers and in traditional techniques. On holidays, weddings and special dates, people also like to wear them. And let’s look at some manufacturing techniques that deserve special attention.

Драгоценная Индия: ювелирные традиции одной из самых загадочных стран мира

Minakari

This is the art of surface decoration with hot enamel, which used to be passed from mouth to mouth. A rare craft was brought to India by Persian craftsmen in the XVII century during the reign of the Mughals. The word “minu” means “heaven” in Persian. For this reason, this technique is also called azure enamel. The idea is to create a beautiful drawing, pattern or picture on the surface of the object. Such jewelry was especially in demand by high society to demonstrate taste, wealth and power. Moreover, fine work requires patience, precision and skill. Often minakari is applied to the inner surface of jewelry. This part is hidden from the eyes of the curious public and being a beautiful and expensive secret can please its owner.

Драгоценная Индия: ювелирные традиции одной из самых загадочных стран мира

There are three varieties of minakari.

The first of them is the most popular — Ek Rang Khula Mina, when masters work with one color of enamel. This variety is more often used to create wedding decorations.

The second is Panch Rangi Mina. The multicolored style is characterized by the fact that five enamel colors already dominate: dark and light blue, red, white and green. In this case, a more traditional bright and saturated appearance of the drawing is created.

And the third variety is Gulabi Mina, which is inspired by the delicate blush of roses. Pink color dominates in this style. The city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is famous for its signature rich pink shades obtained from the rose (Gulaba). Lotus flower and rose motifs are the most popular. Famous masters live in this city, who in the fifth generation are working on creating masterpieces.

Kundan

This technique of fixing stones has been known in India since ancient times, kundan means highly refined gold. During the reign of the Mughals, such decorations reached their dawn. Then very rich or famous people could afford them, over time, products with a similar fastening reached almost everyone. Currently, a lot of jewelry made in this amazing technique is being made for local brides.

Драгоценная Индия: ювелирные традиции одной из самых загадочных стран мира

Having fixed precious stones in the sockets, the master wrapped them with narrow and thin ribbons of gold of the highest purity. This made it possible to achieve the best adhesion of the metal without exposing it to heating.

Tightly compressed layers of gold foil firmly hold the stones in their place. At the same time, the jeweler can place the gems close to each other, creating the desired pattern.

Драгоценная Индия: ювелирные традиции одной из самых загадочных стран мира

Moreover, if you pay attention to the antique jewelry, you can see that many of the stones in them are not the same in shape and size, but this drawback does not catch your eye. All of them together form a symmetrical pattern. Thanks to the kundan technique, the master had the opportunity to hide the imperfect shapes of the stones so that the idea of the general pattern was properly embodied and attracted admiring glances.

Bidri

A method of artistic metalworking that originates in the XVI century in the city of Bidar in Karnataka during the reign of the Bahmanid sultans.

One of the legends tells about a master who mastered this art. He lived very poorly, and earned his living by making figures out of wood, like many others, so the earnings were extremely modest. Once, while carving a new object, he cut off part of his arm. After the horror of what had happened, he began to sob and moan, saying that now his family would have nothing to eat and they would starve to death.

And suddenly a sadhu — saint appeared before him, who shared the secret of a technique that would bring him decent money. The main condition was: to use knowledge according to conscience, and not as a means of enrichment, and to transmit this information only from father to eldest son.

Драгоценная Индия: ювелирные традиции одной из самых загадочных стран мира

So the one-armed master became known in the district. People came to him who wanted to look at the figures, admiring the grace of the smooth lines of the opening flowers, the flexibility of the dancers’ movements, the grace and speed of wild animals.

Bidri is a multi—stage labor-intensive process that is performed manually.

An engraving is applied to the prepared metal surface made of an alloy of copper and zinc. Next, a thin silver thread is laid in this pattern, which is carefully driven into the grooves. Later, the process of final processing and blackening of the product takes place.

And it is also an important craft that gives a lot of products for export. Items made in this technique are considered a symbol of wealth.

Ancient Indians, speaking about their country, used the epithet “golden bird”, where stones personified eternity for them, and precious jewelry — life. And exactly, despite the centuries that have flown by, the jewels bring the wealth of ancestral knowledge to our days in their beak, revealing a multifaceted life with their wing.

Gemstone expert, jewelry marketer.

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