India is the largest repository in the world of privately-held gold. Even the poorest Indian woman possesses a gram or two of gold in the form of jewellery. This is so because Indians regard gold and silver as auspicious and no festival or ceremony is complete without at least a small piece of precious metal. Traditional dance forms in every part of India - bharatnatyam or kathakali, odissi or kathak - extensively use ornate jewellery made of gold, silver or gold-plated silver.
We hear a lot about antique jewellery these days. Genuine antique or vintage jewellery is quite rare and not easy to come by. That is why such jewellery is expensive. When a piece of antique jewellery does become available for sale, the price you will pay is not so much for the actual weight of the precious metal it is made of and/or the gemstones it is studded with.
So, at Sree Vasavi Thanga Maligai, we make these beautiful designs available to our customers by reproducing them in gold and giving them an antique look and finish.
There are two kinds of temple jewellery in the market today - pieces made in gold and set with authentic gemstones, and gold-plated pieces made in silver and set with synthetic rubies, diamonds and emeralds. The second variety is obviously more affordable.
At SVTM, we offer exquisitely-crafted temple jewellery made of 22k gold. As of now, we do not offer gold-plated temple jewellery.
Pearls and coral beads are organic in composition while many precious and semi-precious gemstone beads are formed of minerals. Beads are worn in strands by themselves, or used to embellish necklaces and earrings.
In India, parents begin to collect jewellery for the bride from the time she is born.
In south India, bridal jewellery typically includes the odyanum (waist belt), kasu mala, mangai mala, nethi chutti, vanki, jada naagam, addigai, kaapu, nosepin, metti (toe rings) anklets.
In the North, where a bride is adorned with solah shringar or sixteen items of adornment, her jewellery would include maang teeka, baju band, haar, kangan, bichchu, payal, rings, jhumka, and kamar band.
Fine jewellery is expensive and one worries about carrying them around or allowing children and teenagers to handle them. Essentially, fashion jewellery is faux jewellery and the exact opposite of fine jewellery which is made of silver, gold or platinum and/or studded with precious or semi-precious gemstones.
Cheaper metals such as nickel and pewter are used to make fashion jewellery which often has a light plating of gold or silver to give it a 'real' look.
Strictly speaking, there is a distinction between costume and fashion jewellery. Costume jewellery became popular in the West in the 1930s. Fine jewellery is expensive and has mostly been passed on from mother to daughter. For the purpose of safety, these designs were reproduced in brass and plated with gold or silver. Synthetic stones or similar stones (spinels for rubies, green onyx for emeralds, rhinestones and white sapphires for diamonds) were used in such reproductions.
Filigree jewellery is intricately worked gold or silver jewellery with fine bead work and delicate twisted 'threads' or wires soldered to gold or silver to form artistic motifs. Commonly found in Indian and Asian jewellery, this craft form was also popular in Italy and French metalwork between 1660 and 1900.
Although filigree work has become a special style of jewellery, such work was historically considered part of the skill-set any goldsmith worth his salt would possess. In India, granulation in filigree work is called rawa kaam, while wire-work is called tarkashi kaam.
Traditionally, the goldsmith was also the craftsman and would be skilled in all jewellery-making functions from start to finish - melting the gold, designing and forming, setting stones and polishing the jewel. The process is laborious and time-consuming, and requires special tools to produce jewellery which is unique and not mass-produced. The beauty of handmade jewellery lies in the fine detail and intricate workmanship of each piece.
In India, you will see an astonishing variety of handmade jewellery - temple, jadau and kundan work, with and without gemstones, with intricate filigree work or amazing repoisse, chasing and stamping work (nakshi kaam).
In contrast to handmade jewellery is the modern machine-made or casting jewellery, where the entire process of manufacturing a piece of jewellery is mechanised and generally produced in bulk.
When we speak of kundan jewellery, we are actually referring to a style of setting gems - usually uncut diamonds or polkis - using 24 carat gold foil.
In modern diamond jewellery, prongs are used to hold the gemstone. In kundan jewellery, 24k gold foil is used between the mount and the stone. Other gems commonly seen in kundan setting are emeralds, rubies, sapphires, spinels and pearls. Modern kundan pieces sport semi-precious stones such as tourmalines, onyx and turquoise.
Although kundan jewellery is made in various parts of the India, Jaipur is perhaps the best-known centre for such jewellery. The specialty of kundan jewellery made in Rajashtan and Gujarat is the stunning minakari or enamel work on the reverse of the jewel. Kundan jewellery made in south India does not sport such enamelling.
Due to the high cost of kundan jewellery studded with diamonds, a lot of jadau jewellery today uses flat pieces of glass instead of diamonds.
Polki is the name used for uncut, flat-cut or rose-cut diamonds. These are not as thick as regular-cut and facetted diamonds (such as round brilliants) nor do they sparkle so much. It follows, then, that polkis cost less than brilliants diamonds. The polki is also called valandi and typically used in jadau/jadtar/kundan jewellery.
Nowadays, in order to made kundan jewellery more affordable and within the reach of more people, we use glass instead of polkis/uncut diamonds.
The craftsman or minakar melts metal oxides with finely-powdered glass to form the desired colour. This is then applied to the surface of the metal in the chosen design and fired in a kiln to set. Minakari work is done in various centres in India and each has its own distinct style and use of colours. For example, in Varanasi the dominant minakari colour is a dusky pink or 'old rose'. In Lucknow, greens and blues are enamelled on silver.
However the most famous and vibrant minakari on jewellery is made in Jaipur and Delhi.
The belief is that, when worn together in a particular setting, these act as a talisman against negative effects and bring good luck to the wearer.
The nine gems and the planets they are said to represent are
From a purely aesthetic point of view, jewellery sporting the navratnas solve many a fashion quandary. With the entire rainbow of colours in one ornament, navaratna jewellery can be worn with almost any dress, for casual or formal occasions, depending on the size of the piece.