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The Beauty of Gems.

Enchanting Emeralds.

The Art of Kundan.

The Beauty of Gems

Do you believe in the power of gems? Or do you believe it is the stuff of legends and lore?

Whatever your answer, we ask that you dwell, for just a moment, on the magic of a gemstone…as it journeys through the depths of the earth, into a miners hands and from there into the skilled hands of an artisan who cuts and shapes and polishes a rough stone, refining the ravages of nature and time, and layer by layer exposes the inherent beauty of the stone within. The transformation of a rough stone into a finished gem is indeed magical.

We sift through thousands of  gems, examining the quality and the character of every rock and crystal, isolating the ones that will be incorporated into a beautiful piece of jewelry.  Most often, it is the unique nature and size of a gem that will dictate the design configuration. 
Emeralds, rubies, sapphires, tormalines, diamonds, pearls - precious and semi precious gems...the intrigue and the allure lies in the fire and ice like quality of contrasting color and texture.

Look closely, and you will notice the play of shadow and light, dense opaqueness and liquid translucence, birthmarks, mottles and veins.  
There is such perfection in imperfection!

Enchanting Emeralds

Kings and queens possessed them. Husbands and lovers gifted them. Wives and mistresses coveted them. Spanish Conquistadors raided and plundered for them. Their protectors died for them. Miners risked their lives for them. They grace the crowns of the most powerful and the miters of the divine . They embellish the thrones of dynastic reigns.

The history of emeralds is steeped in drama and turbulence. More valuable than gold and rarer than diamonds, there is a gripping desire to own them. Emeralds are not merely adored... They are revered by those who fall prey to their enchanting beauty.

“It was known that Emerald was a favorite gem of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Alexander the Great had a large emerald set into his girdle. Charlemagne had a collection of emeralds, and Henry II, when he was made King of Ireland in 1171, was given a large emerald ring. Queen Elizabeth II had an amazing collection of emerald jewelry including an emerald diadem. In modern times, Marlene Dietrich wore her own collection of dramatic jewelry set with huge cabochon emeralds (two bracelets and a clip brooch) in many of her movies. Grace Kelly, another icon, was given a 12 carat emerald-cut diamond engagement ring from Prince Rainier. We have also seen the elegant Elizabeth Taylor in her emerald jewelry in National Geographic's emerald story. Richard Burton gave her the emerald and diamond brooch as an engagement present, which she wore with an emerald necklace he gave her as a wedding present. Earrings, a bracelet, and a ring followed. Some of the emeralds in Taylor’s set were from the Grand Duchess Vladimir in Russia. John F. Kennedy gave Jacqueline Bouvier a 2.88 carat diamond emerald ring.”

“All Emeralds have flaws, and each Emerald is as unique as its owner; no two are exactly alike. The French have a term for the particular set of inclusions in Emeralds: they call it "Le Jardin", which is French for "the garden". The value of an Emerald is influenced by color much more so than by inclusions.”

In addition to their exquisite beauty, ancient people attributed all kinds of magical qualities to emeralds. Emeralds were even considered to symbolize healing powers and to promote fertility. They were supposed to be a cure for many diseases. Scholars wore emeralds to strengthen memory. Emeralds were worn as talismans for protection from evil forces. They continue to be a symbol of love, adoration and devotion. The green color of an emerald symbolizes nature in all her grandeur and beauty.

Since the time they were first discovered, they have had an unsurpassed place amongst the most sought after gems in the world. Emeralds are rare gems. They are a type of beryl crystal. They are formed from a combination of the common elements aluminum and silicon with the rare element beryllium. Small amounts of trace elements, either chromium or vanadium, give the emerald its distinctive green tint.

Egypt supplied the known world with emeralds throughout the Biblical period and through the middle Ages. However these gems were ordinary at best. For thousands of years the famous Cleopatra mines were worked by the Egyptians and then the Romans and the Turks. However, the world had to wait until Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America and discovered emeralds of breathtaking size and magnificent beauty.

Emeralds were worshipped by the Incas. It took Spain decades to overpower the Muzo Indians who occupied the mining area. From there on, a vast supply of large, fine emeralds were being shipped to Europe. These jewels soon found their way into the hands of many of the ruling Empires around Europe and the Middle East. The Ottoman Turks, the Persian Shahs and even the royalty of India. Columbia is still the source of many valuable emeralds today.

Today Colombia, Brazil, and Zambia mine most commercial emeralds. Several other countries, such as Pakistan and Zimbabwe, mine smaller amounts. Although Brazil produces more emeralds annually than any other country, Colombia dominates the trade by setting the standards for size and color. It is Colombian emeralds against which all others are judged. Rarer and sometimes more expensive than a similar-sized diamond, Colombian emeralds have a unique look, a green lightly touched with blue. Muzo, the original mine, remains the most important emerald mine in the world.

Emeralds are rated as 7 or 7.5 on the Moh's hardness scale which ranges from 1 to 10 (diamonds being a 10 on the scale). While certainly a very wearable gemstone, they are not quite as durable as some harder stones and should be treated with care and respect.

The Art of Kundan...

Step into the land of pageantry and simplicity, fiery sunsets, infinite stretches of sand dunes, indefinable splashes of color,  mud huts and royal palaces.  Ceremonial turbans, shy smiles, exquisite courtesy  and fierce pride...Rajasthan.

From here, begins  the journey of Kundan jewelry.  The technique arose from a necessity to preserve, protect and encase a gem in its pure form and set it in a piece of jewelry.

Kundan could not remain within the confines of the palaces of India. Renowned European jewelers  were also inspired by this art form. Today, the world acknowledges the legacy and beauty of this style. The detailed craftsmanship and burnished beauty of true Kundan jewelry is neither time bound nor is it slave to fashion.

Besides its classic appeal, the fact that this skill is jealously guarded and perfected by a chosen few, makes it worth possessing. There is wonderment in knowing the number of hands that a piece of Kundan jewelry passes through before it comes into yours …

‘Naqaash’ – the designer, ‘Sonar’ – the goldsmith, ‘Qualam kaar’ – the engraver, ‘Meena kaar’ – the enamellist, ‘Gholne wala’ – the polisher, ‘Kundan saaz’ – the stone setter, and finally ‘Patua’ – the stringer.
Kundan jewelry received great patronage during the Mughal era and the most beautiful pieces were created in those times. “In the migratory movement of craftsmen after the demise of the Mughal empire, in the early 18th century, artists carried their technology and skills across geographical boundaries. In this flux, designs and forms of Mughal origin find an echo across the length and breadth of India. “

The process...

The purest, softest gold is hammered into very fine sheets and a “khol”, or mold is made in 22 karat gold. The mold looks like a thin box. Once the metal is shaped by the goldsmith, the piece is inset with gemstones such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, as well as semi precious stones. Natural lac is used to hold the gemstones in place. The edges of the mold are gently pressed onto the boundaries of the diamond or gem. Ribbons of kundan in 23 karat gold then encase the gemstones. Designs are etched into this border of gold.

In Kundan , light strikes the precious stones only from above, dulling their shine. To provide depth and refraction a piece of silver or gold foil is placed under the stone making it glow. Foil is also used to enhance the natural color of the stone.

The façade of the piece is undoubtedly beautiful but the reverse is equally stunning… “It seems as if the garden of paradise has been captured into all the leaves and flowers to form a design, covering the entire back with enamel.”

This is called Meenakari. Finally, after the work of the goldsmith, an engraver goes to work. The jewel is then enameled on the reverse in the Champleve technique used by the engraver to create grooves that will take the enamel. A steady and precise hand is required, for the engraving stage is both practical and aesthetic. After engraving, the Meenakar or enameler fills and paints the vitreous paste, mixed with a mineral oxide for color, on the lowered metal surfaces, thereby evening the surface and fusing it to the gold with repeated firings.. Colors have different melting points and so are usually fired separately; the more colors, the more firings. The hardest enamel, white, requires a high firing temperature and so is fired first. Red, which has the lowest firing temperature , is last. The sequence is carefully planned to ensure that colors already successfully fused do not melt in subsequent firings. Cooling is as important as heating. The red Meena of Jaipur is applied only to a high karat gold.

Lastly, the individual pieces of finished jewelry are strung together using pearls, rubies, emeralds and yards of gold wire. The skill and ingenuity of the "patua" is  remarkable. He twists and turns and knots the gold wire with painstaking precision. Sitting upright on a floor cushion – his hours upon hours of back bending work are measured one bead at a time.

One who owns a piece of Kundan jewelry invests in a true labor of love and in a moment of history.

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