Pachchikam Jewelry - Pretty and Prudent
Perhaps the biggest comeback story in traditional Indian jewelry, Pachchikam, whose origins are unknown, is inspiring jewelry makers today. There is evidence of European nobility wearing Pachchikam jewelry in the 16th century, and nowadays Pachchikam, with its distinctive silver sheen, is worn by people of all classes in South Asia.
- Who: Pachchikam jewelry
- What: A jewelry style that is characterized by a silver base. It is often rough looking but delicate when handled.
- When: Unknown, possibly pre-16th century
- Where: The original place is unknown, though it seems to be Western. Currently families in Gujurat today maintain the craftwork.
- Process: Uncut semiprecious and glass stones are inserted into a silver case and sealed in.
Originally Pachchikam came from somewhere in Europe. The style made its way to India where craftspeople there began to inject their own ethnic style into the pieces. This comes out in the way the base is pressed over the gems, making the Pachchikam pieces seem rough in comparison to high-end European jewelry. Pieces today thus seem to be a marriage of two styles, Western and Eastern.
Since Pachchikam has a silver base rather than a gold one, Pachchikam pieces tend to be more affordable. They're also much flashier and more delicate than Kundan or other traditional jewelry styles and are generally worn to special occasions.
Despite being cheaper than most other fine Indian jewelry, Pachchikam pieces cannot be mass produced and one item may take months to complete. The major emphasis is in quality, when it comes to this jewelry style.
Pachchikam jewelry makers tend to be very conservative about their craft and will not often divulge information about their methods to outsiders. All knowledge of the Pachchikam production is handed down father to son. They also rarely deviate from set traditional forms and motifs, so most Pachchikam pieces look and feel like their ancient predecessors.
But because Pachchikam jewelry makers are so guarded, the overall growth of the Pachchikam jewelry industry is being checked. In response modern jewelry houses in India, including Art Karat and Niru's Jewelry, are producing pieces themselves that are highly influenced by the Pachchikam style, though no longer relying on the few skilled Gujurati craftsmen, to meet the resurgence in demand.
Photos courtesy of Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas Jewellers, Gitanjali, and Laxmi Jewellry Exports