The practice of adornment goes back to early men who used adornment for beautification, flowers and beads, shells, bones and stones. The natural material used improved in time to ivory, copper and semi-precious stones and then to silver, gold and other precious stones, but our tribal heritage can be seen in the flower idea which is common to Indian jewelry designs even today.
Traditional jewelry is common in many countries even in Indian, jewelry is as old as Indian civilization itself. The remains of the Indus civilization, going back to 5000 years, have yielded examples of beaded jewelry. Jewelry in ancient times was not only an adornment, but each stone was endowed with a mystical quality and used as a protection against evil forces. Jewelry later became a means of putting by savings, like a bank today, and of providing financial security to women who sold it in times of need.
The Indian love of gold may have been a means of acquiring wealth. But the Indian love of jewelry is really a love of the beautiful and the aesthetic, of man’s aspirations to reach perfection in form, design and color. Repetition, symmetry and orderly progression in design are typical of the Indian belief in order, or R’ta, in the cosmic universe.
Indians present this collection as a homage to the art of jewelry in India, to our ancestors who conceived these jewels, to the artist who designed them and to the skilled artisans who fashioned them, and preserved, through millennia, this priceless art, our precious heritage.
Types of traditional jewelry
This Sarpech from Rajasthan is of uncut diamonds and elongated emerald drops. It is topped by a paisley crest. Elaborate Jaipur enamel work covers the reverse of the ornament. The use of uncut stones in ornaments was popularized in the north by Moghul emperors who admired precious stones in their pristine and pure form. Enameling reached its pinnacle of perfection in Jaipur, Maharaja Man Singh having brought five Sikh enamel workers from Lahore to his capital in the 16th century to develop this art.
In this pair of Kadas (Karas or bracelets) from Varanasi (Banaras), the inner side of each Kada is covered with floral designs of pink enamel, a specialty of Varanasi which is quite rare. On the outer side are uncut diamonds with the ends of each Kada ornamented by elephants with intertwined trunks. Kadas could be hollow, solid, or filled with lac.
The Vanki, or armlet of South India shown here, is inlaid with rose-cut diamonds, cabochon rubies and emeralds. An effect of coiled snakes is seen in the gold work on either side in the lower part of the Vanki. Two parrots lead up to the top of the Vanki from which drops a typical lotus-motif pendant.
LINGA PADAKKA MUTHU MALAI
In this Linga Padakka Muthu Malai (a garland of pearls with a Lingam pendant) from Tamil Nadu, rows of pearls end in a pendant in which the Lingam, the symbol of Shiva, is shaped out of an emerald and set in an elaborate encrusted base supported by two bejeweled peacocks with their rich plumes swinging upward.
This exquisite Nath, or nose-ring from Maharashtra, is of diamonds set in flower-shaped clusters of pearls, the jewel being further embellished by a single ruby bead. Rarely does one see any reference to nose jewellery in the ancient Hindu texts from which it appears that it could have been brought into the country by Muslims in the 9th or 10th century A.D.