The Beauty of Gems.
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?
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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 …
– 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.
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. “
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.
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.
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
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.
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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