Jadau Jewelry - Cascading Elegance
Jadau is one of the oldest styles of jewelry craftwork in India today. It was originally worn by Mughal royalty and it only ever used pure gold and precious stones, most commonly uncut diamonds. The somewhat rough-hewn quality of the gold base around the uncut Polki diamonds makes the pieces look antiquated and almost tribal.
- Who: Jadau jewelry
- What: A jewelry style characterized by gemstones inserted into a molten gold base. It occasionally sports Meenakari enameling on the back.
- When: Created during the Mughal reign.
- Where: Originally Bikaner in Jaipur, then spreading out to Rajasthan and parts of Gujurat.
- Process: Requires a team of craftsmen, each with a specific job.
It was brought down by the Mughals when they migrated to India and flourished in the city of Bikaner in Jaipur. From there the handicraft was picked up by jewelry makers in Rajasthan and Gujurat.
Jadau jewelry is entirely made by hand and employs a large team of craftspeople who are skilled at particular aspects of the jewelry-making process. This is unlike most of the other traditional jewelry styles which generally require only a single person working on a single piece. The chiterias making the basic design, the ghaarias engrave and making necessary holes, the meenakers do the Meenakari work, and the sonars manage the gold base.
By nature, Jadau jewelry is a hybrid of different jewelry styles. It uses a gold base like Kundan jewelry for its gemstones and has the same intricate enamel work of Meenakari jewelry on the back of the jewelry piece. It differs from these traditional jewelry styles though as it molds the gold around the gemstones rather than pasting them into a gold base, like in Kundan. As well, Jadau uses only uncut Polki diamonds, precious gemstones, or semi-precious gemstones rather than the beads and glass gems that are commonly used in Kundan jewelry.
'Jadau' is not a common term used by jewelry-makers nowadays, due to the exclusivity of Jadau craftwork. Often jewelry pieces will be called 'Kundan' when, in fact, they resemble the Jadau form more than Kundan. For example, pieces that seem to just be connected gemstones with very little gold or enameling between them will be the Jadau pieces when they may be labeled as 'Kundan' by the jewelry makers/sellers.
Jadau jewelry is all about chunky gems and it usually doesn't have much extra. Generally Jadau necklaces are large and cascade over the wearer's chest. This is a bit of throwback to the original Mughal royals who wore it. But today you can also find much simpler Jadau pieces like the one below which look like a single chain of large diamonds.
Jadau is the prefect accessory for the bride who wants to look like she's dripping in jewels.
Photos courtesy of Irfan Ahson, Chitrangada Singh, and Birdhichand Jewelry