Kundan Jewellery is one of the oldest forms of jewellery art in South Asia and was an accessory associated with royalty. The jewellery has its origins in Jaipur (India) and at one point of time was also the hub of the art but gradually, this intricate craft flourished in Bihar and Punjab. The art reached the peak of its prowess during the Mughal era where it received almost royal patronage. The best paradigm of the art can be seen in the Indian movie “Jodha Akbar” where the actress Aishwarya Rai is regularly seen adorning this magnificent piece of jewellery.
The beauty of this craft lies in the sheer elegance and the simplicity that it displays. But looks can often be deceiving. The jewellery may look simple and elegant on the outside but its manufacturing process isn’t that simple. It’s an art form which takes years of mastery because unlike other ornamental art forms, Kundan jewellery is hand-manufactured and even one minor slip of hand or mistake could blemish the piece.
The manufacturing processes of Kundan namely include 4 steps: Ghadai, Meenakari, Jadai, and Puwai.
Ghadai: This is the first step of creating Kundan jewellery and includes sketching of design on paper and creating all the patterns as per sketch. This is done using tweezers and other commonly used tools. Then the base of the metal is created as per sketch so that gems, stones and diamonds can be engraved on it.
Meenakari: Once the base is ready, gems, stones or diamonds are engraved inside the base. The back side of the base and engraved gems is then enameled by any of the 5 “Panchranga” colors – Blue, Red, Green, White and Gold. This is a high-precision step that requires utmost skill and concentration because any mistake would lead you back to square one.
Jadai: The third step in making Kundan jewellery is Jadai which includes covering the base and gaps with Kundan (the purest form of molten gold). After covering it up with Kundan, the ornament is filed and polished to get the required shine and all manufacturing defects are taken care off in this step.
Puwai: The last and final step involves attaching the hanging pieces of ornament with main base and doing other necessary gold thread work to finish the ornament.
Every step in the making of this fashion jewellery is crucial and requires 100% attention from the craftsmen. Since, Kundan jewellery is made of pure gold, it can be expensive and for this reason, similar jewellery is made in silver for the masses.
However the Kundan jewellery art form today faces a bleak future with the availability of readymade jewellery and it is an industry that is struggling to keep up with modern times. It is huge fall from grace for an art which at one point of time was seen as a status symbol in society.