Indians have a historical fondness for jewelleries, or more specifically gold jewelleries. The plethora of choices available to bedeck oneself is overwhelming. The intricacy of the craftsmanship speaks volume about the dedication of the goldsmiths towards their craft. Owing to gold’s perceived asset value ornaments made of this precious metal are highly coveted but Indians do appreciate other less expensive and equally painstakingly crafted jewelleries made of copper, cotton thread, shells, lac, glass beads studded with precious and semi–precious stones. Even fresh flowers and green leaves are also used to embellish hair, neck, arms and waistline.
Elaborate jewelleries in the sculptures – Somnath Temple:
Though changing socio–economic condition and increasing exposure to different cultures have resulted in changing tastes in jewelleries yet one piece of jewellery almost universally worn by Indian women (and sometimes men) remained to be ear ornaments. There again each region has its own specialty and borrows heavily from the culture and history of the place.
Jhumkas or chandelier earrings are prized possession for any Indian girl with the more elaborate ones reserved for her marriage ceremonies. Jhumkas are could be multi–layered, studded with gemstones, peals and crystals resembling various floral and avian (peacocks are the favourite ones) motifs. While Jhumkas with Meenakari (sophisticated decoration with enamel dust) is the hallmark of Rajastan, their South Indian counterparts almost always come with kaan (ornate ear shaped support to hold up the weight of the metal).
Painting of Raja Ravi Varma of woman wearing Jhumka and Karwari Nath:
For daily uses stud or bangle earrings are preferred. These also merge easily with office attire and if stylised properly enhances the look with subtlety. Both of these though have more illustrious varieties fit for wearing in various social dos. Kaan Bala (bangle for ears), made of circles of varying radii and decoration, are favourite pieces of ear ornaments among the Bengalis. Kaan Pasha on the other hand is a ornate form of stud earrings.
Jadau and Kundan earrings are dependent on uncut gemstones, including diamonds, rubies and emeralds, to accentuate its beauty. Skilled craftsmen of Rajasthan and Hyderabad boast of making these fine pieces. The process of making Jadau and Kundan is considered to have originated in Varanasi centuries ago and before becoming a featured item in the jewellery boxes of Mughal emperors and empresses.
Temple Jewelleries are inspired by sculptures and carvings of temples across India and ear rings made following this philosophy often feature Hindu deities. Apart from precious metal and gemstones holy beads of rudraksha are also used in crafting these pieces.
Examples of Temple Jewellery – a necklace made of precious metal and rudraksha beads and bangles:
Geometric shapes are seen in Thewa earrings belonging western part of the country. These jewelleries are often crafted with silver, terracotta and / or crystals making them more affordable. Traditional Kolhapuri designs include the intricacies of sun’s rays and the tenderness of flower buds into their designs.
Exquisitely crafted jewelleries such as these are genuine ode to true beauty even if you contradict saying a truly graceful face does not require any further embellishments. Moreover, by opting for a piece of ornament as these, today’s women unconsciously become beads in time’s Mohan Mala (necklace) that it started stringing no less than five millennia ago.