The History Of Jewellery - Exploring The Origins Of Your Favourite Pieces

Jewellery, more than mere adornment, weaves a tale of humanity's essence, intertwining our cultural identity, social stature, and personal expression. From the sun-kissed lands of ancient Egypt and Greece to the luxurious courts of Mughal India, the growth of jewellery represents the rich fabric of society. Let us journey through the history of jewellery, from its humble beginnings to the meticulous craftsmanship of ancient Indian adornments.

History of Jewellery: Whispers of the past

1. Ancient Egypt (circa 3100 BCE–30 BCE)

Ancient Egypt Jewellery

Amidst the mystique of the pharaohs, jewellery transcended mere beauty to embody deep symbolic and spiritual meanings. The discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb unveiled a treasure trove of gold and precious stones, showcasing exquisite craftsmanship and motifs inspired by religious beliefs.

2. Ancient Greece and Rome (circa 800 BCE–476 CE)

Ancient Greece Jewellery

Greek and Roman jewellery epitomised elegance and sophistication. Skilled artisans, with their deft hands, wove tales of luxury and status into gold and gemstones, creating pieces that narrated tales of opulence and prestige.

3. Mediaeval Europe (circa 5th century–15th century)

Mediaeval European jewellery was deeply influenced by Christianity, featuring religious motifs and serving as devotional items. Precious metals like gold and silver, adorned with enamels and gemstones, reflected a tapestry of social hierarchies and devoutness.

4. Renaissance (circa 14th century–17th century)

The Renaissance era witnessed a revival of classical themes and an emphasis on artistic expression in jewellery design. The era's renewed pursuit of aesthetics breathed life into elaborate gem settings and intricate enamelling, each piece a homage to beauty and artistry.

Victorian Era (19th century, specifically 1837–1901)

Victorian Era Jewellery

Victorian jewellery mirrored sentimentality and symbolism, with motifs like hearts and flowers representing love and mourning. Advances in gem cutting ushered in an era of intricate designs, while mourning jewellery became popular, acknowledging the era's fascination with life’s ephemeral nature.

Contemporary Jewellery

Contemporary Jewellery

Modern jewellery design encompasses a diverse range of styles and materials, from minimalist chic to avant-garde. Contemporary designers draw inspiration from various cultural influences, championing sustainable practices, and mirroring the evolving ethos of our society

Styles of Ancient Jewelry

Styles of Ancient Jewellery

Ancient Civilization: Spanning back 5000 years, the Indian subcontinent has been a cradle of ornamental magnificence. From the timeless Indus civilization to the regal Mughal courts, Indian jewellery unfurls a rich tapestry of cultural narratives and artistic mastery.

Regional Diversity: Jewellery styles vary across ancient India, reflecting numerous cultural influences and traditions. From the opulent Kundan and Polki to the vibrant Meenakari and sacred Temple Jewellery, India's jewellery tradition is a mosaic of regional artistry.

Types of Jewellery in Ancient India

1. Kundan

Kundan Jewellery

Kundan, deriving its name from "highly refined pure gold," is a traditional form of jewellery crafted primarily from 24k gold, often with a wax core. With a history spanning over 2,500 years, Kundan jewellery holds a prominent place as one of the oldest jewellery styles in India. Due to the softness of 24 karat gold, only specific parts, known as "jadayi," are crafted in this pure form, translating to the distinctive Kundan style.

2. Polki

Polki Jewellery

Polki diamonds are natural, uncut, and untreated gemstones that preserve their rough, non-faceted surface. Each diamond is unique and unaltered. Originating in India long before modern diamond cutting methods, Polki diamonds are highly prized for their purity and rarity, making them exceptionally valuable. Polki necklace designs are often accented with precious stones and pearls, enhancing their charm and value.

3. Meenakari

Meenakari Jewellery

Meenakari jewellery, or enamelled jewellery, is a cherished art form with origins in Persian royal courts and a rich legacy in Indian culture. This enamelled art, with its intricate designs and cultural significance, continues to dazzle, bridging the gap between ancient allure and contemporary grace.

4. Temple Jewellery

Temple Jewellery

Temple jewellery, rooted in South Indian culture, features rich artistry and divine elements. These items, made of gold and silver and embellished with representations of gods and goddesses, are gaining popularity in the fashion world. Modern interpretations use gemstones and filigree work, adding attractiveness to conventional motifs. From necklaces to earrings, temple jewellery retains its timeless elegance and spiritual essence.

5. Navaratna

Navratna Jewellery

Navratna jewellery is widely embraced across India, embodying the cosmic balance to conjure protective energies of the celestial bodies. Each gem, aligned with a planet, weaves a protective aura around its wearer.

6. Thewa

Thewa Jewellery

Thewa craft, which originated 400 years ago, combines 23-carat gold with multicoloured glass to give way to intricate artwork. Artisans in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh create gorgeous Thewa jewellery and artware with exquisite designs influenced by Hindu mythology and the opulent Mughal courts.

7. Jadau

Jadau Jewellery

Jadau jewellery, which dates back to the Mughal era and was created in Rajasthan. It is created by placing precious gemstones like diamonds and pearls into gold frames without the use of adhesives. The name "jadau" refers to the act of embedding, which is a common method in kundan, polki, and meenakari jewellery. The Chiterias, a group of artisans, create the jewellery design. The jewellery is engraved and spaced using pliable gold by Ghaarias and decorated in meenakari work at the back.

The expansion of jewellery throughout history demonstrates human creativity, cultural diversity, and artistic expression. From the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece to the rich tapestry of Indian adornments, jewellery continues to captivate and inspire, expressing the essence of humanity's evolution across time. As we appreciate the beauty and symbolism of each piece, we celebrate the tradition of craftsmanship and creativity passed down through generations, defining the tale of jewellery for centuries to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About History of Indian Jewellery 

What is the origin of jewellery?

Jewellery originated in ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley, where it was made from natural elements including shells, bones, and stones. These early adornments, worn for both aesthetic and spiritual reasons, marked the start of humanity's fascination with personal embellishment.

What is the history of Indian jewellery?

The Indian subcontinent, which includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, has historically exerted influence over neighbouring regions such as Nepal, Myanmar (Burma), and sections of Afghanistan. While early archaeological discoveries reveal glimpses of jewellery such as rings and bracelets, main insights on Indian jewellery are frequently gained from secondary sources such as sculptures and paintings.

Who invented jewellery in India?

The Mughal Empire, which ruled over India for five centuries, saw tremendous advances in jewellery craftsmanship by Mughal artists. Among their innovations was the process of carving precious stones into metals, which marked a significant advancement in the art of jewellery manufacturing during that time period.

Which type of jewellery is famous in India?

Kundan jewellery, also known as Kundankari, stands out as one of the most renowned forms of traditional Indian jewellery.


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