Everything you need to know about the history of Indian Jewellery
The relationship between flowers (or floral jewellery) and Indian craftsmen is an age-old tale. Our country has always had a rich history of co-existing with nature, borrowing its varied gifts and enchantments. Hence, Indian Jewellery has always been inspired by patterns in its rich surroundings and the earliest forms of jewelry were created with materials found in nature such as flowers, twigs, beads, stones, etc. and various metals when ancient Indians learned how to extract these precious metals and gemstones from the lap of nature.
Indian Jewellery symbolizes the rich history and cultural heritage of the Indian subcontinent. However, their history is so intertwined that we cannot narrate the story of one without the other. The oldest forms of Indian jewellery can be traced back to about 5,000 years ago during the Indus Valley civilization- one of the four great ancient civilizations in the world. Since then, a number of jewels have been found from different time periods and spanning across various regions of the country. Hence, Indian Jewellery is an important cultural marker for archaeologists and designers who have inherited the craftsmanship of the Indian Karigar- discovered, honed, and mastered across thousands of years.
Ancient India and Jewellery
The earliest forms of jewellery were made from bones, stones, and shells during prehistoric times. Following the advent of human civilizations, humans learned to extract precious and non-precious metals from the earth. This was an important stage in the evolution of Jewellery. Consider the necklace discovered in Mohenjodaro and currently on display in the National Museum's jewelry gallery in Delhi. The necklace is lined with pendants of banded agate and jade beads strung by a thick gold wire that runs through a carefully drilled hole in each bead and dates back over 5,000 years.
India was the world's sole supplier of gemstones for almost 2,000 years. Golconda diamonds, Kashmir sapphires, and the Gulf of Mannar pearls were prized and brought traders from all over the world to India. Jewels were a symbol of power, wealth, and prestige for the monarchs.
India was the world's leading maker and exporter of beads at the time. India was also the birthplace of the diamond, as well as the inventor of the diamond drill, which was then passed down to the Romans. Carnelian, agate, turquoise, faience, steatite, and feldspar were employed by the craftspeople of the Indus Valley Civilisation, who fashioned them into tubular or barrel shapes, decorated them with carvings, bands, dots, and patterns, or set them minutely with gold.
Modern Indian Jewellery
When we come to modern day India and its gargantuan world of jewellery, there’s a lot to talk about. While some of the older forms continue to exist as they were, other forms have evolved into a myriad of designs and crafting techniques. But despite the countless iterations of traditional designs, the heritage and the essence continue to be respected and adored. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular forms of traditional Indian Jewellery:
The word ‘jad’ literally translates to ‘implant’ and aptly so. Any material can be implanted or embedded into a base metal, be it- diamonds, pearls or any other precious stone. The Mughals have been credited to have brought this style of jewellery.
Particularly worn in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Kundan form involves inserting delicate glass pieces into a gold base metal. This form of jewellery flourished during the Mughal era as well.
Lacquer or lac jewellery is a very versatile form of jewellery originating in Rajasthan. Some of the common elements you’ll find in these pieces are glass beads, decorative wire and mirrors.
Meenakari is another popular form of Indian Jewellery originating in Rajasthan. Raja Man Singh of Jaipur is credited to have promoted the artform. The recurring element in this form of jewellery is that the metal is coated with colored enamel.
Pachchi Jewellery, also known as Pachchikam jewellery, entails intricate craftsmanship with uncut diamonds or other unique stones on a metal base of silver. This form of jewellery was mainly popular during the 16th century when European royalty fancied it.
Floral Jewellery and tradition
Before people discovered the process of extracting metals and even after, people came to use flowers to make jewellery in the form of garlands and bracelets to adorn themselves and the deities they worshipped. Ancient Indians worshipped nature and considered the various elements of nature such as forest and rivers as deities. Certain flowers and leaves were considered sacred and were used for prayer. They were also used to adorn idols of the gods they worshipped. Hence, wearing flowers became a form of beautification for people.
Indian Jewellery was worn as a symbol of status and as ornaments for men and women alike. As people discovered metals and gemstones, they started crafting jewellery with metals. However, even with the advent of metal jewellery, the designs were still inspired by patterns found in nature such as petals of flowers, feathers of a peacock, and water lilies. And that inspiration has continued to date in various forms.
We, at Prune India, are continuing this form of floral jewellery in India in our own way. As our story goes, we were inspired to make floral jewellery from our distant grandmother. When we were young, she used to make jewellery for us using cotton threads and foxtail nuts. And seven years since we delivered our first order, we have been India’s premier floral jewellery makers.
To check out our collections, head over to our Instagram!