Jewelry has a rich history in India due to the country’s abundance in metals and gems dating back to 2000 B.C. and earlier. Indian jewelry has its roots in intricate artwork, developed through the millenniums and culminating in many traditional and beautiful designs of today.
One popular element of early Indian jewelry was due to the bead trade. Beads were popular for earrings and necklaces, where a bead maker would transform a colorful stone into a bead by heating it, chipping it down to size and then polishing it off. Elements of this style can still be seen today in many necklaces. One aspect of Indian jewelry is in the significance of certain stones and other materials. Beads illustrate this concept well as particular stones or other materials relates to certain Hinduism attributes. For example, Hindu prayer beads contain 108 stones, made from a specific type of wood.
Jewelry in India holds great significance, particularly for women. Aside from celebratory jewelry – where bracelets, earrings and pendants are flaunted and given as gifts – jewels played a practical role throughout the centuries because they could be easily traded or sold during dire times. Earrings and other accessories, usually made from gold or silver, also signify wealth and status. Other pieces, like nath (nose ring) and toe rings, are important because they signal a woman’s married status. So different jewels can mark significant events in a woman’s life – child birth, marriage, coming of age etc. Still, there are other sacred pieces like the Navaratna (nine gems), a powerful amulet represented by different gemstones often worn by royalty.
Although it is difficult to pinpoint any particular style for Indian jewelry because of the many different regions and values of the country, a common thread in its history is established through available and valuable resources. Gold is often used because of its value and availability and is often considered sacred because it symbolizes warmth. Gemstones like rubies and emeralds can be found on the higher end crowns and bracelets. Diamonds also came into play because India was the first country to mine diamonds.
Aside from materials, Indian jewelry is unique due to its numerous techniques. Many popular jewels display a filigree style, a technique where a pattern or design is created by twisting metals into place. This style displays beauty and attention to detail by the craftsmen who do it. Meenakari is another technique used in Indian jewelry. It is used in necklaces often when crafters fuse colorful materials together to create the illusion of precious stones, complementing the piece.
With its history, abundance of resources and unique styles, Indian jewelry has something to offer to everyone, whether it’s an extravagant and eye-popping design or a colorful, classy look.