The north, south, east and west of gold...styles in gold jewellery designs seen across India.
Jewellery in India has drawn upon the numerous facets of its people, and has in turn been inspiration and solace to both wearer and beholder. Sculptors and painters disobeyed boundaries between the real, the ideal and the imaginary, generously beautifying their images with ornaments. To the many classical writers, gold was a source of charming visual images. Rulers used jewels as statements of power and prestige. But to the Indian woman particularly, gold holds special significance to her life. It is far more than the ultimate enhancer of beauty, it is that precious thing which stays and grows with her though the different stages in life, as daughter, wife, mother, and in her personal growth as a woman.
The Indian woman has always been very creative in her expression of jewellery and design. In keeping with Indias rich tradition of diversity, jewellery also takes on regional nuances. It is the ultimate and most-personal expression of region specific culture and art, of lifestyles and heritage. It draws inspiration from architecture, dance and even religious customs.
Women in north India are known for their love for exquisite jewellery and also for being experimental and flamboyant with their jewellery.
Given the trend of pretentious and bold displays that is the trademark for most of northern India, chunkier the jewellery, the better, making traditional gold a persistent favourite among women in the north.
The mangalsutra has been revived as a fashion statement. Considered a sacred ornament of marriage, designs and style are evolving and becoming trendier. Women in the North are experimenting with antique finishes and embellishments to make the sacred mangalsutra a truly personal demonstration of their style.
The latest jewellery trends in southern India vary quite distinctly from the north. Gold jewellery is worn, flaunted and enjoyed, even when the occasion does not call for elaborate accessories. Body jewellery is also becoming very popular. It could range from a scarf made out of gold, an intricate sheath of gold that can be used as a belt or even long hoops worn around the arm.
The arrival of antiques: A huge trend in the south now is toward antique ornate jewellery. The traditional Kasu-malai, the chain comprised of coins flowing from neck to waist, is still very popular in the south, and remains a traditional symbol of status and wealth.
Designs have now come full circle, from the traditional floral patterns, glittering stars, swans and lotus patterns, which are old favorites; geometrical designs, intricate filigree and large abstracts are also gaining favour. The traditional Mullai Mottu Malai necklace, which has replicas of jasmine buds all around it, is an example of this old and new fusion. It remains both seeped heavily in traditional sentiments but using contemporary aesthetics in its design and production.
Bengal still revels in the craftsmanship of its exquisite handcrafted jewellery. The two essential parts of gold forms in Bengal are wire-work and filigree, neither of which can be done by machine. The art of wire-work is said to be over five hundred years old, as is filigree. Floral, leafy or even abstract motifs are created with the malleable, ductile gold wire. In the Bengal gharana, flowers are inspired from Dopati and Kolke. There is also a hint of religion with the Kolke being blessed by Lord Shiva. The Takashi or filigree work of Maukhali of West Bengal depicts a strong Persian influence, probably because it was handed down from the Mughals.
A wonderful example of eastern Indian jewellery is in Bollywoods blockbuster Devdas. Both ostentatious and resplendent, the film captures the antique gold jewellery look of the time. Highly ornate work with impeccable handcrafting techniques is the trademark of jewellery from this region.
Kolkata women still love their heavy gold jewellery in spite of the new contemporary designs, which are also gaining popularity. So the traditional Chik (choker), Chur (heavy broad bangles held together with bars, or the Ratanchur (bangle connected with the fingers with chains) still reign supreme.
What makes jewellery in Western India so unique is its diversity. Jewellery from Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat are markedly different from each other, but share their preference for using gold as the base metal.
Rajasthan: Jewellery from this arid desert region is an amalgam of traditional Rajasthani craftsmanship and the influx of Mughal culture, which brought in sophisticated know-how to the art of jewellery manufacturing.
Rajasthani jewellery includes the traditional bindi, which is worn in the center parting of the hair. Flower shape pins and hair combs are a strong part of traditional jewellery in Rajasthan. Earrings include a variety of jhumkas, and bangles are thick gold bands called kadas with the two end carved to resemble elephant of peacock heads.
Gujarat: Perhaps the most distinctive item of jewellery in Gujarat is the disc earrings worn by Kutchi women that stretch the ear almost to tearing point. In Gujarat, there are ornaments for practically every part of the body - necklaces, earrings, nose-rings, hair ornaments, bracelets, bangles, amulets, waistbands, anklets, finger and toe rings. Also back in style is Pachikam jewellery, which is traditional to the Kutch region. Pachikam is very delicate jewellery, and much more refined than Kundan.
Designs remain nature-inspire, as it is considered fortunate to wear these types of designs.
Maharashtra: Maharashtrian jewellery has its most distinctive feature in the Nath (an emblem of marital felicity) or nose-ring in a paisley shape. The traditional heritage from the Marathas and the Peshwas still reign in the traditional jewellery influences.
Most jewellery is crafted from with excellent workmanship and delicate embossing work. And traditional necklaces are back in vogue; the Hars, Mohanmalas, and the gold-beaded Tushi have now become fashionably popular for the festive season.
The Indian womans love affair with jewellery does not end with India and traditional jewellery. An forthcoming trend seen especially in the metros has been women drawing towards contemporary jewellery. These are young, fashion-conscious women who desire smart jewellery that can be accessorized with their wardrobe.