Story of Indian Jewelry

Antique Beaded Jewelry It appears that both men and women of that time wore jewelry made of gold, silver, copper, ivory and precious and semi-precious stones. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata abound in descriptions of ornaments and the code of Manu defines the duties of the goldsmith. By the third century B.C., India was the leading exporter of gemstones, particularly diamonds. Gold was usually imported into the country, a practice prevalent even during the Mughal period.

In India jewelry is made practically for every part of the body. Such a variety of jewelry bears the testimony to the excellent skills of the jewelers in India. The range of jewelry in India varies from religious one to purely aesthetic one.

Jewelry was handcrafted not just for humans but also for the gods, ceremonial elephants and horses. The craft of jewelry was given a royal patronage right from the ancient times because in India jewelry is much more than just a tool of aesthetic appeal; rather it is the symbol of divine abundance and material blessings.The rajas and maharajas vied with each other to possess the most exquisite and the most magnificent pieces of jewelry. Temple complexes supported many different styles of jewelry-scented sandalwood bead necklaces, the prayer bead or the rudraksh (berry of the elaocarpus canitrus) necklace, multicolored silk and gold thread necklaces, and others.In Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities where women do not inherit landed property, jewelry was a major component of the streedhana (gifts given to a woman at the time of her marriage). Jewelry, because of its easy convertibility into cash, was thus regarded as security and investment.Jewelry as investment and identity marker is evident in the plethora of ornaments worn by people from nomadic and migrant tribal communities. It is not uncommon to find Banjara women wearing a wide variety of silver jewelry.A profusion of earrings in various sizes, bangles of bone, shell and ivory extending from the wrist to the armpit along with silver bracelets, chokers, pendants and necklaces, nose rings, and heavy anklets are worn by most of the migrant groups, especially in Western India. The setting of precious gems and stones in rings, pendants, necklaces and bracelets gained prominence due to the belief that these stones are associated with certain powers. In Bengal, it is common to find iron, silver and gold wires twisted together to form a bracelet, a combination that according to popular belief gives the wearer health and strength.
Traditionally, Indian goldsmiths are usually men and are referred to by a variety of names depending on the region-sonar, swarnakara, panchallar, or thattan. In the Vedic period, goldsmiths had a much higher standing than most other artisans, perhaps because they worked with a precious metal. The goldsmiths had royal patrons. Historical records show that Indian jewellers mastered quite early the various skills required to make fine jewelry-mixing alloys, moulding, drawing fine wires, setting stones, inlay work, relief, drawing gold and silver into thin wires, plating and gilding.

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