Reviving The Dying Indian Jewellery Arts Of Thewa, Gajra And Bidri

I have grown up hearing stories from my late maternal grandmother about the jewellery worn by our ancestors about a century ago. Though it was quite common back in the day, we feel that age-old handcrafted jewellery seems to have extinguished. Being a part of the Gem and Jewellery industry, it has concerned me about how all such historical art forms have been getting lost and how we can find ways to revive these Indian jewellery art forms and the artisans who craft these.

In a mission to nurture the various art forms of the Indian Jewellery that have been struggling to keep up with the modern age machinery and jewellery trends, the Gems and Jewellery Skill Council of India (GJSCI), had set up a Craft Pavillion, wherein the families that have been keeping these art forms alive for generations were invited to showcase their work.

I was honoured to be invited by Mr. Sanjay Kothari, Chairman, GJSCI to experience this chapter of the Craft Pavillion at the IIJS 2019 event. Here are some of the highlights from my conversations with the skilled craftsmen of these jewellery art forms.

Thewa Jewellery

The traditional Thewa art dates back to about 450 years ago with presently only 11 members of the Rajsoni family who are carrying out this art form.

A silver wire is used to form the basic shape of the jewellery, gold sheet is incorporated into the formed shape and the inscriptions are designed on it and the final product is achieved by fusing the designed base with multi-coloured glass to make it shine through. To know the detailed manufacturing process of the Thewa artwork, check out this blog

When asked about the recognition of the Thewa art, the young member of the Rajsoni family, Mr. Arpit Kumar Raj Soni proudly listed the records and awards that his family has been able to garner over the years beginning from his grandfather receiving the first of nine national awards for the Thewa art. He added, “Recently, my father was presented the national award by our current President, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind Ji alongside other noteworthy recognition like the Limca book of records, Guinness book of records, and India book of records”.

They showcased an array of Thewa necklaces, pendant sets, earrings, pen stands and a few artefacts. What fascinated me the most was the men’s belt buckle made with 23 kt gold. Check the video to know more.

Bidri Jewellery

Developed in the 14th century CE, the Bidri Art in Silver was influenced by traditional Persian art. The most amazing thing about the art form is that it is still carried out in the same region of Bidar where it originated centuries ago.

Mr. Rakesh Nageshwar from Karnataka explained how Bidri art progresses from the basic metals to the extremely intricate and beautiful artistic transformation. The most interesting part of the process was the chemistry involved, he explained, “We use the specific Bidri soil from the Bidar fort in the region to cover these art pieces along with a mix of Copper and Sulphate, which is treated with hot water, this will turn the zinc to a black colour and the silver will shine white”. Find out the detailed manufacturing process in this blog.

They showcased unique jewellery pieces comprising of necklaces, bangles and some well-crafted jewellery boxes along with a variety of artefacts. Check this video to know more.

Gajra Jewellery

The Gajra work which originated in Kutch, Gujarat about 250 years ago was developed for curating silver jewellery for the different tribes in the Kutchi community. These handcrafted jewellery pieces are created without any soldering work. Check out this blog for the detailed manufacturing process of Gajra Art Jewellery.

Mr. Mahesh S Pomal from Kutch showcased the different jewellery pieces that are traditional to the Kutch culture and heritage and how each experience or stage of life is celebrated with a piece of jewellery. I was amused to know that the married men wore a certain kind of necklace in the Kutch tradition (known as men’s mangalsutra). He also stressed on the fact about the various health benefits such jewellery can bring. “The weight and form of certain necklaces, hand and leg jewellery are designed to activate the acupressure points and areas of the body”. Check this video to know more.

I wish that these art forms receive tremendous recognition, success and even bigger platforms and audience for their work. I look forward to meeting various other families in India who are continuing the path of such historical art forms for generations.

One such display of amazing skillset from Sanjoy Pramanik at the World Skills competition has given us more reasons to shine bright in Kazan, Russia. He is the proud recipient of a Bronze Medal WorldSkills Kazan 2019 for Jewellery Design. This Indian contingent’s exceptional performance has kept the Tricolour flying high!