Indian jewellery designs have their origins in the 5000 year old Indus civilization
No celebration or occasion in India is complete without women adorning themselves in the best jewellery they own. It is as necessary a part of their attire as celebrations are to a festival. For a woman in India, jewellery not only has ornamental or monetary value, but also has an emotional value attached to it as it is normally passed from generation to generation as a family heirloom. It’s normally the first gift a mother gives to her daughter on her wedding day, with an understanding to treasure it all her life and hand it over to future generations in time to come. Interestingly, jewellery has been made and worn by women since the stone ages and one can see jewellery of those times in many of the museums across the country. The history and origins of jewellery in India is very interesting and one can see influences of the Mughal empire, Indian Maharajas and the many different regions of India in its design and making.
Since ancient times, Indian stone jewellery has been used for both ornamental and religious purposes, as can be seen from the many temples in religious places of India where the statues often have intricate designs carved on them. The caves of Ajanta and Ellora too show the rich heritage of jewellery in India and as it was then. The history of Indian jewellery has its origins in the 5000 year old Indus civilization, the remains of which can be seen even today. One of the necklaces found in Mohenjodaro has intricate work carved on it with the beads being precisely pierced and strung with a thick gold wire. Due to this and other jewellery forms found there, the Indus Civilization can be rightly credited with the place Indian Stone Jewellery originated in India .The ancient Maharaja’s and Rulers used jewellery both for ornamental as well as trading purposes and were known to gift jewellery to talented artisans and performers as a reward.
The Mughal kingdom too has had an influence on the designs and colours of Indian jewellery, since the Mughal empire was dominant in many parts of India, for more than 500 years. The Mughal empire which is well known for its works of art and architecture, left traces of their culture and art on the jewellery of those days. Intricate carvings, inlay work of precious stones and delicately embroidered patterns are a hallmark of those days that can be seen even today. Equal mention must be made of the Nizams of Hyderabad, when one speaks of the history of jewellery in India as they had the largest collection of gemstones in the country. The Nizams were very famous for their sarpech a head decoration worn below the turban and pearl necklaces. One of the most famous pieces of jewellery from those times is the The Nizam of Hyderabad a sparkling diamond necklace, gifted by the Nizam of Hyderabad to Queen Elizabeth II on her marriage.
Today what we see is known as contemporary art which is basically art inspired by both the past and the future. It focuses on minimalist designs that are part of the whole ensemble, rather than stand alone pieces like ancient necklaces or bangles etc. which could be worn either together or separately as needed. Most modern jewellery is inspired by nature and elements found in nature making extensive use of gemstones to create a visual effect that is both impressive and eye catching. While this is a short narrative on the history of Indian jewellery, one can easily learn more about it through many of books written on India and it’s colourful past history.