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Indian Silver

Jewelry has a significant place in the culture of India.  This is no recent development.   Ancient sculptures and paintings show deities and common folk clad with exquisite jewelry.  Archeological finds also document the long held significance that jewelry has played in Indian culture.  Rings, bangles, and other jewelry of exquisite workmanship have been found dating back to at least 3500 B.C.  

Historical documents show that silversmiths and goldsmiths were held in high esteem in ancient Indian culture. That the people of India buy jewelry for investment reveals why most jewelry from this country contains precious metals or gems.  Gold and silver jewelry, in particular, is valued both for its beauty and its investment value. 

Traditionally, women in India did not inherit land or own property jointly.  Instead of property, they were often given a share of the family’s wealth in the form of precious jewelry, made to the highest standards of craftsmanship.  When a woman marries, she is given jewelry by both her family and the family of her newly wedded husband.  The jewelry is intended to be used, of course, but serves the function of providing a nest egg for future rainy days.  Gold will usually be given by wealthier families, silver by less affluent ones.

The incorporation of gems into Indian silver and gold jewelry is often attributed to Muslim influences.  India is home to vast reserves of gemstones, which are believed to have supernatural powers among some Indian cultures.  Of particular cultural significance are emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, rubies and amethyst. 

India is a land of many cultures, each with its own style of jewelry.  To the north, the Kundan style emerged, which involves setting glass or crystal into silver or gold.  Another style from this region is known as Meenakari, which sets stones into gold.  To the Northeast, jewelry-makers turn to nature, with plants, mammals and birds appearing in many forms.  Gold tends to be preferred over silver in this region.  As one moves further into the Kashmir region, silver head dresses can be found, often incorporating coral and turquoise to create pieces reminiscent of the Tibetan style.  In other tribal regions, silver and gold may be used, sometimes together in a single piece, and often integrated with beads, shells, and ivory. In Orissa, there are tribes where filigree silver and gold are the dominant art forms.  To the South, large gold jewelry is preferred, often with astronomical symbols.  Silver beads are made throughout India.

India’s Metallurgy Tradition

India has been home to advanced metallurgical skills for eons.  Iron beams in ancient temples reveal an ability to generate rust-free alloys more than 2000 years ago, and probably much longer.  Indeed, copper objects dating back to 6000 B.C. have been unearthed.  The Harrapan civilization of India were producing silver and gold alloys more than 4000 years ago.  Gold and silver coins dating back as early as 400 B.C. have been found at archeological sites. India is often credited as being the first civilization to master the extraction of zinc from zinc ore, perhaps in the 1100s, and 400 years before the Chinese.

Some Common Indian Jewelry Terms

Here are a few terms one is likely to encounter when shopping for India jewelry:

·         Bangles: stiff bracelets

·         Chakti: toe rings

·         Jhumkas: Dangling earrings, similar in form to what westerners refer to as “chandelier earrings”

·         Kadas: A set of bracelets worn together

·         Nath: nose rings

·         Tikha: round pendants for one’s forehead

·         Payals: anklets with bells



Index Of Articles

"Silver 101"
"Sources of Silver"

"Sterling Silver Defined'"
"Silver Standards"

"Silver Marks and Hallmarks"

"Silver Testing Kits"

"The Silversmith"
"Silver Coins"

Plating & Treatments

"Silver Plated Jewelry"
"Gold Vermeil Jewelry"
"Rhodium Plated Sterling"
"Antiqued Silver"

Fake Silver Jewelry

"Alpaca Silver Jewelry"
"German Silver Jewelry"

Silver Jewelry Styles

"Bali Silver"
"Indian Silver"
"Thai Hill Tribe Silver"
"Tibetan Silver"
"Turkish Silver"

Silver Allergies

"Silver/Nickel Sensitivities"
"Hypoallergenic Jewelry"

Recent Developments

"Argentium® Sterling Silver"

"Silver PMC®"

"The Origins of Tarnish"

"Tarnish Removal"

"Firescale (Firestain)"

"Proper Silver Storage"

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