Source: https://shoplune.com/collections/best-sellers/products/starburst-brass-necklace

All That Glitters Is Gold

A deep dive into the significance of gold in Indian history

Jewelry helps people express themselves and symbolizes wealth, power, and status — it is wearable wealth. According to Hindu mythology, gold is the soul of the world. The creator produced water from his body and passed a seed which transformed into a golden egg. From this egg, Lord Brahma was born, known as Hiranyagarbha, or the one born of gold. Thus, gold is now known as the seed of Agni or the God of Fire. It is also associated with Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, symbolizing perfection, prosperity, and immortality. 

Hiraṇyagarbha
Source: https://yogaharta.com.au/hira%E1%B9%87yagarbha/

Gold is an investment, but more than that, it is a metal with a lot of cultural significance. It is the most popular metal used due to its durability as it doesn’t tarnish even when worn every day.

Hindus believe that it is precious and symbolizes good health, prosperity, and femininity. 

Kancheepuram in southern India and Varanasi in northern India are the centers where gold jewelry is made since historical times. Also, the design and pattern of gold jewelry differs from area to area and is very typical to a certain region. 

It can be found that during the Mughal period, women were dressed in extremely ornate ways, especially in their hands and feet, since those were the only parts that were exposed from the veil that they had to wear. Mughal royalty had distinctive gold pieces with gemstones and motif designs. This style was later adopted by other regions like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa to create a fusion of their distinctive regional patterns. Mughal jewelry entailed Indian craftsmanship and the cultural flair of the Middle East.

Mughal handcrafted sterling silver enamel and pearl jewelry. Original and unique jewelry by Lai
Source: https://in.lai-designs.com/collections/mughal-collection

Further, the Mughals brought new techniques of jewelry making. One of them is called the kundan method, setting gemstones directly into pure, soft 24-carat gold at room temperature. Kundan means highly refined gold. Jadau is another technique and involves a three-step process of setting the stone to pliable gold. Meenakari is a time-consuming technique which allows for a floral finish on both sides of the piece. Filigree involves interwoven pieces of gold. Thewa involves an intricately worked-out sheet of gold on molten glass. 

Mughal jewelry typically has a color palette of green, red and white in its designs due to the excessive use of emeralds, rubies and diamonds, which were considered a symbol of opulence and dignity of the empire. 

Stunning dramatic Mughal inspired lotus enamel earrings (PB-1509-ER) Earrings Sterling silver handcrafted jewellery. 925 pure silver jewellery. Earrings, nose pins, rings, necklaces, cufflinks, pendants, jhumkas, gold plated, bidri, gemstone jewellery. Handmade in India, fair trade, artisan jewellery.
Source: https://in.lai-designs.com/collections/mughal-collection/products/stunning-dramatic-mughal-inspired-lotus-enamel-earrings-pb-1509-er-rs-5700

Despite the rising gold rates, devotees donate gold ornaments and help with temple funds, for example, the Tirumala Temple in Andhra Pradesh. 

The Tirumala Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh is considered the richest temple because of its large donations. In 2019, it was said that the 10th-century temple receives 22,100 rupees every minute on average. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam or the TTD manages the affairs of the temple and has 7,235kg of gold deposited with two national banks. Officials say that the richest Hindu temple sits on more than 9,000kg of pure gold reserves.

Tirupati temple has 9,259-kg gold
Source : https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/archive/nation/tirupati-temple-has-9-259-kg-gold-770681

Further, gold is usually passed on from generation to generation to help keep a family legacy alive. This is usually done during weddings as a mother passes on her jewelry to her daughter. The change in style trends does not matter — it is the sentimental value that remains powerful as an heirloom is given. In a more practical sense, it also helps people save money on gold. In Indian culture, brides usually wear gold to mark their union with another family as she becomes part of her groom’s extended family. Before giving the jewelry to her, the family ensures that it is heavy with distinct designs. 

Gifting gold is considered lucky and is a part of many celebrations. It showcases the value of an individual and the purity of intent, especially when celebrating the birth of a child or during birthdays. Likewise, it is a commemorative medium. There are also auspicious times to buy gold like Dussehra and Dhanteras. However, it is also bought in festivals like Onam, Pongal, and Durga Puja. 

Akshaya Tritya, according to the Hindu calendar, is an auspicious event that marks new beginnings. It is also known as Akha Teej. It is observed on the third day or Shukla Paksha Tritiya during the bright half of the Vaishakha lunar month, according to the Hindu calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, this refers to the days from April to May each year. Hindus tend to host important events like weddings, new business ventures, etc on this day. 

India has a rich art history that includes jewelry-making. Since this article is focused on gold jewelry primarily, here are sources for the importance of other metals like brass and silver in Indian history. 

In today’s time, there is a boom of local jewelry designers that embraces its history but appeals to younger and modern tastes. Also, a lot of modern regional designers have started to use brass and silver primarily in their designs and plating the pieces in gold. 

Below are four Indian-based jewelry brands to shop from and support: The Olio Stories, Lune jewelry, Dhora jewelry and Bhavya Ramesh jewelry

The Olio Stories

Aashna Singh and Sneha Saksena launched the Olio Stories in November 2015. Olio aims to put storytelling at the forefront — bringing stories of ancient India, friendship, womanhood, family, etc. to the core of their brand. The pieces are designed for everyday wear and special occasions, making them appropriate every day. 

“As a brand, we work on creating timeless jewelry that is easy to wear, versatile, and can stay with you forever. They are designed to be an extension of your own personal style and story. Pieces to be worn, shared, gifted, cherished, and passed down to your sons and daughters.”

Their five values are purposeful design, community-driven, India first, new nostalgia, and always evolving. They ship internationally as well, making it a brand that is accessible for the wide diaspora. The pieces are hand-made in Jaipur. 

These are some of their bestsellers:

The Nur Choker is a detailed coin choker that features Jahangir’s special zodiac coins. This is one of the examples of incorporating India’s history in jewelry that is wearable and beautiful. 

The Sun Earrings are personally my favourite piece they have. It was inspired by the Sun, which is known to be the mother of all life. Additionally, in Hindu mythology, Surya, the God of Sun, is considered the creator of the universe and the source of all life. 

Lune Jewelry

Sreesha Shetty started the brand and the team is based in Goa and Mumbai. Lune aims to use Indian jewelry-making techniques to create modern and timeless pieces. 

“Now, handcrafted across India, with a focus on conceptualising and crafting jewelry that is ‘everyday’ in appeal while also being luxe, you will observe that Lune pieces speak directly to the contemporary woman of today. Guided by the moon and all things celestial, symbolism, art and sculpture (Lune is French for ‘moon’), you will see manifestations of those inspirations and intuitions in the pieces, year after year.”

This brand also ships internationally. They have a wide range of products like necklaces, charms, bracelets, earrings, rings, anklets, and nose pins. The pieces are designed in Goa and crafted in Jaipur. 

These are some of their bestsellers:

The Starburst Brass Necklace is a necklace that has north star motifs. It is definitely a very modern design that will last the test of time. It is one of their bestsellers and it is clear why.  

The Salma Irregular Pearl Hoops are gorgeous and worn by Deepika Padukone. The freshwater pearl charms are unique for each person as they are natural. No two are the same, making them a great addition to one’s collection. 

Dhora Jewelry

Aavriti R Jain is the founder of Dhora Jewelry. It is a brand that creates products inspired by Rajasthan, India. Aavriti considers Rajasthan and Italy home after studying at Istituto Marangoni in Milan. 

“As a brand will bestow a breath of fresh air to the classic art and mold them in contemporary frames – by giving back to its source of inspiration through exquisite pieces of hand crafted jewelry. An enticing mélange of Indian karigari with minimal and one of a kind designs that are making want-to-meters soar even as we speak, ‘Dhora’ is not only very contemporary and edgy, it is truly mode de la muse!”

The brand ships internationally and all the pieces are handmade that embody old-world traditions and significance. They have jewelry, accessories, clothing and decor. 

These are some of their bestsellers:

The Gold Lioness Earrings exude classic elegance and opulence. It is made of brass and is gold-plated.

The Poonam Choker is made in brass and is gold plated. It is adjustable and comes with a sirafa or a draw string. 

Bhavya Ramesh Jewelry

Bhavya Ramesh is a self-taught jewelry designer whose designs are inspired by the Banjara culture. The brand is based in Bangalore, India. She hopes to communicate in her designs that “jewelry is beyond just ornamentation, it’s symbolic and a form of expression”. 

“A conscious silverware brand, fostering love & oneness to create a fluid community that wholeheartedly expresses itself. We believe in the power of being sensitive and sublime.”

The brand ships internationally. The products they offer are: earrings, neck pieces, ear clips, rings, wrist wear, nose pins, brooches, maang tikka (piece of jewelry worn on the forehead), sunglasses, anklets and toe rings. The pieces are mostly made of silver and are handcrafted in Jaipur with recycled sterling silver. 

Here are some of their products:

Twin Flames Palm Cuff

This Twin Flames Palm Cuff was inspired by a lotus, which is India’s national flower and a peacock, India’s national bird. The former teaches us to grow from our environment and the latter adds a certain exuberance and elegance.

Cluster Earring

The Cluster Earring are spiked earrings which add a level of edge to the wearer, despite its minimal design.  

silhouette of ballet dancer
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