The Essential Guide to Indian Jewelry
Honestly, walking through a gold market is difficult enough because you don't know where to look first. Your neck gets sore pretty quick from all the double takes. And that's just one gold market in an one billion-people-strong country (I'm sure your brain just jumped into overdrive). You have a massive choice on your hands.
So, to help with the decision-making process we have compiled a small encyclopedia of Indian jewelry for you. You'll see chunky Jadau, regal Kundan, colorful Meenakari, and auspicious Navratna to name a few. Each one comes with a brief description and an even briefer bullet-pointed list of facts (just to make it all a bit more edible).
If you've ever wanted to know where Lac comes from or why Pachchikam is so cheap in comparison to the rest, we got you covered. If you have no idea what Bhutia jewelry is or why your Gujarati grandmother keeps trying to foist that old ivory bangle on you, just read on and find out.
And, finally, if you always had a soft spot for Bharatnatyam even though you're North Indian, we'll show you how you can still wear Temple jewelry. Relax and let us take care of you.
We've made it all bite-size so you can choose the jewelry that is just right for you. We've even included a small glossary below to help you decipher all the little bits that go into every jewelry piece. Happy exploring!
Chhatera - the craftsperson who engraves the metal of the jewelry piece
Chillai - a jewelry-making process in which the gemstones of the jewelry piece are polished
Ghaat - the skeletal framework that supports the jewelry piece
Khudai - the process in which gemstones, including cut/uncut/rosecut diamonds, are placed into the wax from the paadh process
Meenakar - the enameler who works with other craftspeople to create the jewelry piece
Meenakari - the process in which careful enameling creates designs in the jewelry piece's molding
Paadh - the process in which the lac, or wax, is poured onto the ghaat framework and is molded around it
Pakai - the process by which gold foils are soldered onto the jewelry piece to hold the gemstones within the framework of the piece
Polki - uncut diamonds used in Jadau, Kundan, and Meenakari work
Sarpech - a turban ornament worn by wedding grooms and originally donned by Hindu and Muslim princes
Sonar - the goldsmith who prepares the precious metals used in jewelry-making
Photo courtesy of Tanishq