Jewellery inspirations of the Rajasthani royals is aspirational modern jewellery for millennial brides.
The story goes, the Mughals brought meenakari with them from Persia. Jewellers to the royals in Jaipur, which was an important trade centre in the medieval era, took to it and made it their own, just like the borrowed art of blue pottery from the Orient. It spread to all centres of Mughal influence over the ages, fusing with the traditional royal jewellery in kingdoms such as Jaipur and from there, to other areas of Rajasthan. In present times, it is difficult to imagine a modern-day bride without thinking of her adorning a polki aad necklace on her neck, or for her friends to wear glistening kundan maangtikkas and chaandbaalis.
Polki jewellery has the oldest history in India. Before the Western cutting methods arrived in the country, raw uncut diamonds, or polki were set in gold, often with a technique called jadau, and worn by rajas, maharajahs and noblemen all over the country. Says Manoj Soni, jeweller to erstwhile royals, whose family has been in the profession for over three generations, “All polki and jadau work originated in this area in the cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Udaipur primarily. Each piece that we create requires months of labour. It is done by only our family members and the techniques and designs are our trade secrets.” You won’t find their designs on Instagram, sported on celebrities and marketed, he says. “We have worked with designers such as Manish Malhotra in the past, but our family jewellery secrets remain safe with us.” He doesn’t worry about customers, “…those who know, they know. We keep getting more requests than we can manage at any rate!”
Tradition vs the modern world
But where does tradition step in with the modern customer? Says Prerna Rajpal, the founder of Amaris jewels, a jewellery brand that works with jadau jewellery quite a lot, “Jadau, or uncut diamonds on the base of gold as a jewellery crafting technique has been trending for many decades as bridal jewellery. It has been reinterpreted in different ways in recent times. For one, colour palettes have become unusual – rather than deep reds and blues, the colour palette has moved to pista green, blush, pastel shades which allow for the use of different stones than your typical rubies and emeralds.”
Jadau jewellery is the technique of setting stones – such as ruby, raw diamonds or polki on a gold frame, covered by meenakari work at the back, in different designs. The intricate jewellery ends up as works of art. It can be done on all sorts of jewellery pieces, but is the most popular as the aad necklace – a rectangular choker worn on the neck, with cascading pearls and meenakari work from it, accompanied with matching jhumkas, a big ring, and a borli (maangtikka design specific to Rajasthan).
According to Rajpal, even the gold that is being used has been experimented with. “Rather than yellow gold, we are moving to different finishes such as rose and white gold, which work beautifully with say a red-carpet worthy look,” says Rajpal.
From the wedding to the red-carpet
Tarang Arora, creative director at Amrapali Jewels corroborates her, “Taking inspiration from the original craft and colours, we now have diversified the colour palette with modern enamel. We also have modular jewellery, so big and heavy pieces can be transformed into smaller singular pieces which are multifunctional and can be worn in different forms like a choker or a bracelet, and vice versa.”
Jadau jewellery is famous for its low resale value, and jewellers have worked on improving its market value. Says Rajpal, “A close setting of polki requires a lot of lac, which reduces the value. As the market evolved, and the jewellery industry became more transparent, brands have been moving towards an open setting of polki to support the millennial customer. This technique is called uttrai work – inlay using precious stones – which allows the jeweller to set stones to each other without gold.”
Return on investment
The HNI clientele who’s buying bags is also buying jewellery, however, a lot of value is attached to the investment in the Indian consumer’s mind as it is looked at as an investment unlike other luxury goods, which are expensed off. It is important to take note of its resale value in such circumstances, as customers look to circulate their jewels more, rather than only pass them down generations.
Polki has been considered a weak cousin of diamond jewellery, and often clients would much rather buy diamond which has a better return on investment. The market has moved to the open setting of polki jewellery seven to eight years ago, an innovation to improve return on investment.
Post-Covid, brands note a huge momentum in the market right now. People want to treat themselves, and a lot of weddings which were on hold are going to happen in the next few months.
As the rush to buy jewellery begins, brands have been experimenting with what’s trending. Brides are moving on from buying heavy bridal jewellery to layering up pieces, things which can be stacked together, so that it can be worn on many more occasions rather than heavy bridal jewellery that can’t be worn.
Says Rajpal, “Brides are opting for slightly more modern designs, jadau jewellery is now popular in smaller pieces, for instance.”
While the techniques and even the pieces itself might be evolving, jewellery from Rajasthan still remains popular when it comes to weddings. Says Arora, “While Rajasthan is known for art, craft, culture and colours, we are inspired by the heritage of this state. Our jewellery is crafted in beautiful colours inspired from the royal courts of Rajputana. A lot of coloured stones, flat-cut diamonds are used in the collection to depict the beauty of this place and exude an old-world charm.