Jewellery is an art form that is passed down from father to son. A form that not only bonds two individuals but also shapes lives, maintaining well-kept secrets and family legacies.
Having interacted with numerous designers, traders and gemstone dealers, each skilled individual always has a different secret to share. An idea passed on to them from their forefathers continues with small advancements along the way. This form of Chinese Whispers often leads innovations in this industry.
At the JAS, a jewellery show in Jaipur, I once got the opportunity to see the art of ‘Kundan Jadai’ in its true form. A jewellery manufacturing technique wherein gemstones are set within 24 K gold sheets and lac.
The talented men I conversed with, spoke to me about how they learnt to make jewellery pieces with so much character and individuality. I sat there learning how “Kundan Jadai” is done with my broken Hindi and likewise their English they showed me how each piece is brought to life and how holes are drilled into a gemstone by hand.
Kundan that originated in Rajasthan and Gujarat for the Royals is an art form that involves setting a gemstone within a gold foil border. This emphasises the stone and gives it its much-needed support.
Each diamond that the karigar set was a delight to watch. A gemstone base is first carved out in lac after which the gemstone is placed within. Gold leaf after gold leaf, each sheet is placed with such precision and moulded to support the sparkling gem. The outcome appeared to be diamonds set within a cloud of gold.
Cutting and Polishing
I watched how holes were delicately drilled into gemstones. An intricate process that involves a needle coated with diamond dust that rotates slowly yet firmly drilling a precise hole. Similarly, the men used a disc scored with sharp lines also coated with diamond dust to create facets on each gemstone. A facet creates a window on the gemstone that allows light to pass through thereby giving the gemstone its colourful sparkle.
Another famous jewellery art form that originated in India is Meenakari. It involves finely ground glass mixed with natural colour, heated in an oven to form enamel. On a visit to China, I happened to visit a local handicraft shop selling a range of items all designed and decorated with a similar enamelling technique.
The two countries although creating similar outcomes used very different techniques. Here in India we engrave the metal and fill in it with glass. In China, on the other hand, they create a design with raised metal and then fill it with enamel.