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Honed By The Hands

By Asra Shaheen

There’s more to jewellery than picking a run-of-the-mill stuff from the shelf. Nothing can match the distinctiveness of bespoke adornments painstakingly crafted by the hands for a discerning art patron. So this time around, flaunt these handmade creations to up your style quotient.

Handmade Jewelery

While most branded, mass-produced jewellery is sleek in style and presentation, nothing can match the distinctiveness of bespoke handmade jewellery. When a piece of adornment is crafted by hands rather than assembled by machine, it becomes a customised creation made for a discerning art patron.
The Cultural Tapestry
“A cultural influence is depicted by the materials used and the traditional, myriad designs; designs that are prepared for the handmade jewellery. My hand-made jewellery has a lot of Tanjore-painted faces of Mughal Emperors and gods, which not only depicts royalty, but also brings optimism, keeping it different in its own way, very vintage and ancient. Artistically hand-made jewellery is influenced by the way it’s carved and the sense of colours being used. Its craftsmanship and the blend reflect the art and the view behind the piece,” says Musskan Agarwaal, a young jewellery designer, whose exquisite collection titled Proroyal Kiwi comprises some opulent neckpieces and bold pendants depicting miniatures of Tanjore paintings.
The covert meanings and representations associated with handmade jewellery continue to intrigue historians and archeologists. The Banjara women from Andhra Pradesh adorn themselves with some of the most captivating embellishments made of silver coins, shells, metal-mesh, beads and chains. To them, jewellery represents security and investment. Royal dynasties consider handcrafted silver jewellery as a symbol of power and nobility. In many cultures, jewellery is a source of healing. A jade necklace, a turquoise amulet or a quartz pendant, for instance, are believed to have different healing properties.
“Creating jewellery is an eternal process of artistic imagination and fine craftsmanship. The art of making beautiful ornaments with delicacy and acumen has been developed through various ages,” explains jewellery designer Preeti Agarwal. “In ancient India, people handcrafted jewellery out of natural materials found in abundance all over the country. Seeds, feathers, leaves, berries, fruits, flowers, animal bones, claws and teeth – everything from nature was affectionately gathered and artistically transformed into fine jewellery. Even today such jewellery is used by the different tribal societies,” adds Preeti.
The Art of Adorning
When it comes to wedding attire, many of us are slightly old-fashioned or want to be ‘mainstream’ in our choice of jewellery, but a bridal shower or pre-wedding ceremony should be an appropriate occasion to try something out of the box. “The elegant ensemble of light choker of kundan-polki work with jhumki earrings or ear covering heavy earrings with one line of kundan-polki and kundan bangles would complete the pre-bridal look for a traditional Indian theme wedding but if the bride wants to keep it classy and sober then two lines of diamonds with trinket earrings or a strand of emerald with drop earrings are very classy and can perfectly reflect a modern Indian pre-bridal shower/sangeet look,” feels Musskan.
Graceful appeal of beaded and hand-painted work: Leading ladies who have always been the show stoppers of the evening would find handmade beaded fashion jewellery a prudent choice. Beadwork is the craft of attaching beads to one another using a needle and thread or soft, flexible wire. A beaded necklace set made of amethyst crystalline quartz would go well with an off-white silk churidar-kurta. How about dazzling in a crimson chiffon saree with ruby beaded earrings? Isn’t that gorgeous? And this one is jaw dropping… a crystal pink coral beaded anklet with a magenta ghaghra-choli!
Bracelets, necklaces, earrings or pins, whatever be the embellishment, hand painting makes your jewellery look astonishing. Meenakari jewellery, which is a tasteful blend of regality and ostentation, is also suitable for any of the pre-wedding rituals. “Precious stones are set and then enameled with gold. The piece of metal on which the work is to be done, is fixed on a lac stick. Enamel dust, of the desired colour, is then poured into the grooves and each colour is fired individually. Silver and gold are used for the base of meenakari. Choice of colours, in case of silver, has to be green, yellow or blue, as these colours fix well on it. As for gold, all the colours can be applied to it and this is also the reason why the metal is preferred for meenakari jewellery,” explains jewellery designer, Preeti Agarwal.
Amethyst, jasper, ivory, lapis lazuli, carnelian and feldspar can be beaded into some very attractive amulets.
Sangeet Sensations
A kundan style kada hand painted with 22 carat pure gold leaf work on white marble slab makes for a spectacular adornment for your sangeet ceremony
Cute knits and trendy sequins: Knit bangles and bracelets are ideal for pre- wedding theme parties because they are lightweight. You will be amazed to see how simple knitting patterns can adorn your wrist full of multihued bangles. Another style of jewellery that is lightweight and less complicated for occasions when you like to go a bit easy on your embellishments is sequin jewellery. Sequin necklaces look hip and trendy and exude a sense of individuality.
Filigree to fillip your style: Given the kind of detailing that goes into the filigree art work, one can understand the level of precision and technicality involved in the craftsmanship. Historically, filigree work was very popular in countries such as Egypt, Italy, and Spain. In India, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh are well known for filigree jewellery. Known as tarkashi in Orissa, the vast array of filigree work depicted in jewellery include figures of animals, birds, flowers and the famous Konark Chakra. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka boast of a significant filigree art form known as bidri that involves inlay of pure silver on a blackened alloy of zinc and copper. Another filigree style from Andhra Pradesh is the silver work done in Karimnagar. The artisans delicately craft flowery jewellery with intricately twisted strands of sliver. Vintage-styled sliver filigree work goes well with khadi silks.
Carved and engraved art: A unique blend of the old-world charm and contemporary look, carved jewellery is eternal in its appeal. For those of you who would like to stick to tradition, jadau is your best bet. Also known as engraved jewellery, jadau jewellery is worn on marriages, festivals and other auspicious occasions. Ever since the Mughal era, jadau art has been a part of the culturescape of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Precious and semi-precious stones, gems, crystals and beads are embedded in gold. The gold is melted and when it becomes pliable, stones and gems get fixed on it without any adhesive or carvings. Uncut diamonds called polka/vilandi form the central stone.
“The temple jewellery of Nagercoil consists of traditional gold ornaments studded with red and green semi-precious stones. These were used as offerings to gods and hence the name. Today, some of these designs are being made in silver and then washed with gold,” informs Preeti Agarwal. The famous Tanjore jewellery is inspired from the temples of South Indian. While Rajasthan is home to Bikaneri kundan and polki work, the Pachchikam jewellery originated from Kutch in Gujarat.
Nature’s Best Bets
To sport a regal look, you can choose from the five-line necklace panchlada or the traditional Mughal bangle suterla or the kilangi/baajubandh.
In Natural Light: Reviving the ancient way of adornment, many contemporary designers are using glass beads, fabric, acrylic as well as organic/natural material such as wood, leather, shell, hemp, raffia grass, animal horns etc to make chic designs. Those of you who believe in making a social statement in style, natural materials bring in class and a stamp of individuality.
As you explore the treasures of handmade embellishments, you will be amazed to see the scintillating variety of choices available for the various pre-wedding occasions. So the next time you plan an ensemble for yourself, opt for these handmade creations.

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