Indian heritage for jewelry dates back centuries. The nation has been geographically blessed with mines of rich gemstones and precious metals. Spanning almost 5,000 years, Indian jewelry is a fascinating expression of Indian culture and heritage. We find multiple references to legends, chronicles, gem deposits, and more in different Indian history and literature chapters, which are enough evidence of the aesthetic culture of India.
A brief snapshot of Indian jewelry legacy
The first gemstone which deserves mention is the Kohinoor diamond in India, a natural crown upholding the Indian legacy. It’s rightly known as the ‘Mountain of light.’ Originating from famous Golkonda mines, Hope is another famous diamond of Indian heritage. From ancient civilization until the Mughal era, India has always been spotted as a pioneer of gemstones. Moreover, the rich terrain has also been a sole supplier of rich stones spanning 2,000 years. Gulf of Mannar pearls, Kashmir sapphires, and Golconda diamonds are some of the precious gemstones India will always be remembered for in history and the future. These highly-priced infamous gemstones attracted traders from all across the world to India.
History of gemstones and precious metals
Indus valley civilization, one of the wealthiest civilizations in India, was known to have a sophisticated aesthetic sense. These were evident from the intricate jewelry they crafted and wore. The jewelry and gems convey strong messages of pride, respect, heritage, and honor in India. The immense mineral possession of India enticed Greek travelers. So be it Arthashastra, Mahabharata, and Ramayana; all these mythological scriptures mention yore’s jewelers.
Next was the Mughal dynasty, one of the most influential in India, considering the period of reign and prosperity. They had the engineering craftsmanship to do the right gem-setting to consolidate their power through a display of richness. Akbar was known to be the first emperor to “organize a treasury of stones” like blue and red yaquts, emeralds, diamonds, and Rubies.
Around the 1880s, the Padar area in Kashmir was discovered to have deposits of blue sapphires. It comes with a velvety texture with slight haziness. When zoomed in, it reveals several complex particles. These stones are magnificent in texture.
Coming to Gold, one of the most widespread jewelry in India, the country accounts for nearly 80% of the jewelry industry. India is known to have the most prominent sector worldwide in diamond cutting and polishing.
India’s most significant jewelry heritage
India has been known as the ‘golden bird’ for centuries owing to the wealth it is endowed with. Starting from a leading bead-producing nation, it became a diamond hub. Orlov, Nassak, and Dariya-i-Noor were other exquisite gemstones excavated from Golkonda mines. These feature among the most precious gems in the world now. The heritage of Indian jewelry is a proven fact considering that these were integral parts of royal treasuries of Nawabs, princes, kings, and rajas. The royal collections of such finest jewelry come mainly from Kashmir, Baroda, Patiala, Darbhanga, and Rampur.
Nizams of Hyderabad possess some of the most significant jewelry collections as they ruled the nation extensively between the 18th and 20th centuries, including the Golconda mines. It is known that they had around 6,000 jewelry pieces in their assortment, out of which the Government of India acquired 173 in 1995.
The finest gemstones and jewelry stones of India
Golconda diamonds: Talking about India’s most precious collection, Golconda diamonds deserve a special mention. It was also the center of trade for the merchants. According to beliefs, diamonds symbolize beauty, luck, endurance, and longevity. Golconda mines have been extensively exhausted after producing around 12 million carats of gemstone spanning 2,000 years.
Spinel and Ruby: These red blood stones represent youthful energy, life, and power.
Emerald: One of India’s most coveted rich minerals is the mighty green emerald. Representing life force, the deep green mineral beryl was carried to Goa, the coastal trading hub of India, by either Portuguese merchants or the King’s coffers. This gem mineral was also brought into India by Brazil and Afghanistan.
Yellow and blue sapphires: While yellow sapphires symbolize good health, intelligence, and wealth, the blue counterpart stands for power, prophecy, and wisdom. These minerals are primarily available in Southern India but mainly originate from Sri Lanka. The Kashmir Maharaja took control over this new area owing to the rich deposits of the sapphires, and tons of beautiful giant crystals were unearthed from these sites.
Pearls: The history of Indian jewelry and gemstones is incomplete without pearls. These white minerals have been fundamental to Maharajas, Kings, and Mughal Nawabs. These were sported as jewelry embedment and clothing treasures. Also, pearls are symbols of religious items and household objects. The finest, whitest, and roundest pearls symbolize prosperity and good fortune.
Navaratna: The 9-stone heritage in India dates back to Hindu celestial Gods. The ensemble includes cat’s eye, yellow sapphire, coral, pearl, diamond, hessonite, ruby, blue sapphire, and emerald.
How is the heritage taken forward in India
With many mines being drained and exhausted by external merchants and traders, India still has a good mineral deposit. With a name being marked in history for being a rich spot for minerals and metals, Indian tradition elegantly flaunts jewelry. People like to adorn beautiful jewelry crafted out of metals and gemstones in India as part of tradition, religion, and beliefs. So be it a marriage party, formal occasion, or a religious festival, we all love to deck ourselves in the finest jewelry. That’s the symbol of our cultural heritage. Gemstones are also crucial in our belief system, whether by astrological virtue or other beliefs.
When it comes to the rich cultural heritage of Indian jewelry, the Kohinoor diamond takes the middle spot. Excavated from alluvial mines dated 1000 years back, it was sifted from the sand. Hindy mythology believes that this crowning diamond was revered by Lord Krishna. The gem traversed through Indian courts before landing in British crowns around mid of the 1800s. This timeless gemstone rightfully adorned the throne of the Mughals as well, who carried on their legacy in India for years. The Kohinoor diamond was embedded at the apex of the throne, the pinnacle of a shimmering gemstone peacock. The gleaming jewel has always been a spotlight among the plethora of treasuries of India. It has remained a signature gem of India and will continue to be so, having originated from this country.
Some leading jewelry manufacturers have taken up the tradition of creating some of the finest jewelry pieces for India and the world. Thanks to their especially adept teams, these manufacturers and jewelry houses understand the beautiful craftsmanship of antique, traditional, and modern jewelry embedded with rich gemstones and metals. PLRL Jewelers and Daughters is one such name that has earned immense appreciation for coming up with many vintage jewelry pieces, traditional rich and heavy jewelry, and modern lightweight ornaments. They have a plethora in their possession, and you can choose among different metals and stones and get the jewelry for your occasion.