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Since ancient times, India’s tribes have developed an indigenous style of jewelry-making, using easily available raw materials such as clay, bone, stone, wood and others. Today, ethnic tribal jewelry from India is as popular as handmade jewelry crafted by professional artisans using sophisticated instruments.
West Bengal is well known for its terracotta jewelry . In the town of Shantiniketan, artisans craft beautiful necklaces, rings , bracelets, anklets, pendants, bangles , hair pins and other trinkets. This trendy Indian jewelry is made of clay, which is then engraved and glazed. West Bengal is also known for its Navratna jewelry .
India is also famous for its jute jewelry . This colorful jewelry is adorned with beads, shells , and brightly colored threads. Jute is very popular with the youngsters, because it is not expensive, is light weight, and eco friendly.
The state of Orissa in India is renowned for its filigree jewelry. This is a very intricate and delicate art of jewelry making, in which fine threads of metal are curled, twisted and plaited. These are then joined by means of gold or silver solder and borax using a blowpipe.
India is one of the world’s largest exporters of pearls , and the main centre of pearl trade in India, is Hyderabad. This historical and culturally rich city has become synonymous with pearls. And these are available in a whole range of colors from the exquisite white to a dark grey. They are strung together in necklaces and bracelets and set in earrings, bangles and other ornaments.
Jewelry from Kashmir is characterized by its mirror and bead work . Kashmiri earrings are typically heavy and bell shaped. Kashmir is also famous for its sapphires. Kashmiri sapphires have been mined for nearly 40 years (1880- 1920s) in the cliffs over the small village of Sumjana.
The colorful state of Rajasthan in North-west India is associated with heavy jewelry made of oxidized silver that is worn by its tribes, as well as with exquisite meenakari, kundan and lacquer jewelry.
Lacquer jewelry: This Indian jewelry is made of lac, which is a hardened tree-sap. It is then colored; typically blue, red and green, after which it is decorated with brass and studded with glass.
Meenakari jewelry: This jewelry from India was introduced by Raja Mansingh of Amer. He invited skilled artisans from Lahore to his kingdom, and they influenced the jewelry craft of the local craftsman. Meenakari jewelry is gold jewelry in which are set precious gemstones, and which is then enameled with gold. Jaipur, Alwar, Pratapgarh and Nathdwara are the important centers of Meenakari work in Rajasthan.
Kundan jewelry is a specialty of Rajasthan. The kundan is a semi-precious opaque crystal. Artisans begin by shaping individual pieces and then soldering them together. Thereafter, they engrave the jewelry and cut holes in it. The pieces are then enameled. Lac is inserted in the back, so that it is visible through the holes. Gold is then used to cover the lac, and the kundan stone is pushed in.
Another famous form of jewelry from India is the Pachchikam jewelry of Gujarat.
Indian jewelry, we see, embraces numerous styles and techniques, and uses several raw materials. While silver and gold are the most popular materials, copper, lac, bone, wood, jute and clay are also widely used. Jewelry studded with gemstones is as popular as that which is adorned with beads, shells, mirrors and other decorative items.
Use of Gold in Indian Fashion: Indian Gold ornaments are popular because the metal is believed to have the power purify anything it touches. Ornaments of gold and other metals, often combined with precious and semi-precious gems and beads, are popular with both men and women in India. Traditionally, Indian ornaments had economic significance for women too. The ornaments given to her at her wedding constituted a daughter’s inheritance from her father ( Dowry). Customarily land and other property was divided among the sons, though this no longer holds true. In addition, a bride’s ornaments were financial security throughout her life.
Ornaments of Indian Fashion :
Nose pin or Rings : More common than a nose ring, both are symbols of purity & marriage, though today many unmarried Indian girls wear this adornment.
Necklace: These are very popular fashion accessories across India amongst girls and women of all ages. Necklaces are made of a variety of materials, ranging from glass beads to gold and diamonds. One special necklace is the mangal sutra, worn only by married Indian women. It is the Indian equivalent of the western wedding ring. Traditionally a woman wore it during her wedding ceremony and took it off only if her husband died.
Bangles: Worn on the wrist, bangles are believed to be protective bands and women always wore them as symbolic guards over their husbands. As with other ornaments, bangles today are worn by women of all ages all over India and are made of silver, gold, wood, glass, and plastic, among other materials.
Ear rings: Rings, studs and other ornaments worn in the ears are popular all over the country. In fact, a girl’s ears are usually pierced before her first birthday.
Other important ornaments are finger rings, toe rings and anklets. Rings for the fingers are again, of various materials and designs and worn by unmarried and married women. Since the ring has become a common adornment, it is no longer considered a symbol in Indian marriages. However, toe rings and anklets are still worn mostly by married women. Ornaments for the feet are usually made of silver because gold, being a ‘pure’ metal, was not supposed to be worn on the feet. This privilege was given only to women of royal Indian families.
In addition to these ornaments is the ‘mangatika’ or ‘tikli’. This ornament, worn at the top of the forehead in the parting of the hair, is usually a small pendant on the end of a chain that is clasped to the hair. Although traditionally this ornament was also worn as a symbol of marriage, today it is not so commonly worn even by married women.
Kajal or Eyeliner : From the time a child is six days old, its mother applies kajal to its eyes and also a small black dot on the forehead to mar the child’s beauty. This ‘imperfection’ is said to protect from evil.
Sindoor : dot on forehead of woman indicating married status of Indian Women, power, protection for her husband. It is applied by the husband as part of wedding ceremony.