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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