Hello folks, thanks for joining me today. The UK is still basking in sunshine, although some spoilsports are beginning to mutter about droughts and hose pipe bans - one wouldn't believe we live on an island, surrounded by water. I suppose it's all 'water water everywhere and not a drop to drink'!! This week work at the day job has been extra busy and I've spent time in the garden in the remnants of the sun of an evening. This has meant that I've had no time at all for my magnificent obsession and my output has been a big fat zero! However, for those of you who follow the blog, I thought I'd bring you an article I wrote, which was published in 2017 in the journal of the Indian Catholic Association of Central Texas. The Journal was called A Taste of India : Jewels of India.
The proceeds from the sale of the journal went to Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Austin, Texas; victims of Hurricane Harvey, and the Indian Missionary Society, Rahagora and Sevalaya, Belgaum.
When one of the ladies on the editorial board asked me to contribute an article I was thrilled, but I thought I'd make it clear to them that I did not subscribe to any organised religion at all. As she didn't seem to mind too much, I put this little article together.
A Magnificent Obsession - a Potted History of Jewellery in India
Neena Shilvock is a cat person, obstetrician and gynaecologist, and jewellery designer and maker, in no particular order. Given the choice, she would paint the world in happy, bright, rainbow colours and her jewellery is consequently as high visibility as her world vision. She imagines that she is an introvert and that her jewellery speaks for her, but others beg to differ. Either way, her designs are interesting and unusual, her eye for colour is unerring, her workmanship excellent, and her choice of materials unconventional. Her jewellery suits the soul of the sophisticated extrovert and bashful introverts will find that wearing Caprilicious endows them with the magical ability to stand up and be counted.
She can be found at www.capriliciousjewellery.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CapriliciousJewellery .
Twelve shell beads discovered in a cave in eastern Morocco were dated at more than 80,000 years old. The beads are coloured with red ochre and show signs of being strung together. The beads found in Morocco aren't the oldest in existence. That honour belongs to two tiny shells discovered in Israel in the 1930s and dated at 100,000 years old. The shells are pierced with holes and were probably also hung as pendants or necklaces.
The earliest Indian jewellery was found in the ruins of the Indus Valley civilisation, going back 5000 years. The wide range of jewellery worn by both genders can be seen in sculptures in temples and shrines, and there are records of jewellery in various epics and texts dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
Gold and precious gems were used as a crude form of banking, with the owners
converting their money into ornaments that could be sold on during hard times. For Indian women, jewellery was considered a social and economic security, the value of which would only appreciate with time.
Particular types of gemstones were thought to protect against specific ailments or threats and the evil eye. Each stone was endowed with a mystical quality and used as a protection against evil forces. The navaratna or nine gems, each representing a planet, are worn in a particular order, to this day.
For more than 2,000 years, India was the sole supplier of gemstones to the world. Golconda diamonds, sapphires from Kashmir and pearls from the Gulf of Mannar were coveted, and drew merchants across land and sea to India.
Temple jewellery in South India, was originally used to adorn idols and temple dancers. The pieces are chunky but intricate, adorned with gemstones, floral and paisley patterns, and often figurines of the god they adorn. They are now worn by classical dancers who have brought them out of the temples into the wider world.
The Turkish influence came to India via the Mughals, who brought enamel work, uncut stones, pearl tassels, and aigrettes; turban ornaments for both men and women, to the north of India.
The Islamic influence mainly remained in the north, with the exception of Hyderabad in the south where the Nizam and his wives were avid collectors of the most beautiful pieces of jewellery adorned with stunning rubies, emeralds and diamonds. Jewellery made in Turkey today still has a lot of similarity to pieces made in India and this is due to the Turkish origins of the Mughal empire.
Gold was traditionally the most commonly used metal in India for a long time, especially among people who considered jewellery an investment. Eventually it became too expensive for the ordinary man and ‘one gram gold’ pieces, which are essentially gold plated silver came into being. Women traditionally buy gold at festivals such as Diwali and the one gram gold ornament allowed them to keep up with the Joneses.
The younger, more contemporary woman, who eschews values such as buying gold as an investment however, prefers to buy silver ornaments. The rustic village/gypsy/Banjara look is very trendy today and silver jewellery is seen as a compromise - a precious metal that has value, albeit not as much as gold, but can yet be handed down to future generations as an heirloom piece.
Eventually, even the price of silver shot up, and ‘German Silver’ copies of silver ornaments became popular. These are cheap and almost throwaway pieces that can be used on a few occasions, after which they begin to look and smell strange due to the tarnishing of the formulation of 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc.
India has had a long association with costume jewellery - glass beads, semi precious gemstone beads, rudraksh, sandalwood and other wood beads, flower garlands and bracelets, tiger claws and teeth, yak teeth, shells, amber, coral, bone and ivory are some of the more traditional materials used.
Western apparel has become popular and many ladies have gravitated towards a more Western look for their jewellery. This has happened almost serendipitously, at the time when precious metals became too expensive to buy on a whim, akin to the time in the western word when costume jewellery became very fashionable in the 1950s, in particular when film stars gave it credibility.
Women have found that they can buy colourful, limited edition jewellery and look fabulous in them without having to pay the earth, and what’s more, these pieces will stand the test of time. It is important to a lot of women to be different and stand out from the crowd, and for them the handcrafted, personalised piece of jewellery is ideal.
Contemporary Indian jewellery wearers are poised at the point of rejecting the one-size-fits-all outcome of traditional manufacturing and there is a growing taste for customisation and work of a more individual nature. Artisan made jewellery has now grown very popular as have craft markets and online shopping; the world-wide-web has made shopping for indie jewellery so much easier and fun.
The new Indian woman requires each piece of apparel she wears to be different, as unique as herself, and it’s maker.
I hope you enjoyed that little read. I have friends visiting me all weekend, and on Sunday, a friend has bought me a ticket to see Paul Simon on his farewell tour in Hyde Park. I have actually watched him play at the same venue a few years ago with the boys from Ladysmith Black Mombazo and it was great, so I'm really looking forward to a repeat performance.
Have a fabulous weekend and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.