Continuing traditions: A way forward for Art jewellery in India

‘India, like no other country on our planet, can rightfully boast of an unbroken heritage of jewellery design that spans atleast 5000 years and extends back into antiquity. Its people have expended limitless energy and creativity in the invention of ornaments that celebrate the human body and in developing opportunities for their use. By adorning the visible, material body, they also seek to satisfy a universal longing for the embellishment of its intangible counterpart: the human spirit.’ Traditional Jewelry of India by Oppi Untracht

There are many key words here that would ring familiar to the contemporary world of Art Jewellery. However, it is the word ‘unbroken’ that renders versatility to the traditions and subsequent evolution of Indian jewellery.

Ancient Indian jewellery, whether tribal or classical, of metal or organic material, refined or primitive, was rife with symbolism and stories of the people who wore it, accounting for communal identities, marital status, social hierarchies, etc. And as it developed in isolated pockets, the jewellery in each area spoke through distinct vernacular languages and textures.

Today, even though the jewellery looks the same, the stories have long been lost.

In my humble opinion, it is imperative to document, study and evolve from these traditions before they are lost to us in these fast changing times of globalization.

This would be particularly challenging, as most art courses don’t actively include the study of jewellery.

It thus inevitably follows, that collaborative efforts are made towards developing a dedicated space, such as a museum or an institute: a dynamic space that allows for scholastic studies, new dialogues and for the showcasing of past traditions and continuing and evolving traditions in jewellery.

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