Friday, 21 June 2013

Wonderful Gold Smith

HIP FLASK
These include gold liligree boxes for bezoars and jewellery in gold, rock crystal, and gemstones."The number of jewellers and dealers were many, catering to a never-slackening demand. According to the Madras Census Report, 1881 in Madras, an exceedingly poor country, there is one male goldsmith to every 408 of the total population; in England, a very rich country, there is only one goldsmith to every 1,200 inhabitants."

Or the most part, jewellers executed pieces only when they received specific commissions. They were well versed in the vast terminology of ornaments and designs. Clients provided the craftsman with gold and gems; ornaments had only to be mentioned by name to be reproduced faithfully. Large items were not stocked for ready purchase. But the late 19th century witnessed a change.

Perhaps due to declining royal patronage and growing western influence, more and more jewellery houses were set up in the major cities. None maintained records, and few can recall the names of their great designers and setters. They functioned as workshops, executing orders from printed catalogues or fulfilling commissions for individual clients. But the services of the home jeweller continued till recent times. The many jewellers catalogues that were printed at about this time featuring a large variety of designs, with details of weight and price, are valuable documents of design (429, 430). An illustrated catalogue, namuna-i-zewara t,' published in Bombay in 1898, contains almost S00 designs of ornaments popular in different parts of the country. Customers could select and order items depending on their budget. By the middle of the 20th century, 'mail-order' jewellery was a flourishing business.

Legacy of Craftsmanship

Closed set, but simulating kundala velai, with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, the gently curved form of the pendants adds a lifelike quality to the peacock and floral motifs.An idea of the precise nature of early craftsmanship methods is based on a few surviving examples and evidence manifest in workshops found in the course of excavation of ancient sites. Each region developed its own specialization and evolved new methods by absorbing and combining from different sources. The earliest jewellers were undoubtedly the bead-makers, whose skills date to the pre-Harappan period. Beads were made from semi-precious stones, steatite, faience, terracotta and other materials, and even exported to distant destinations. Steatite beads, glazed and polished, carved with trefoil motifs, were abundant in the Harappan sites. Gold imported from south India into the Indus cities was beaten into thin sheets and worked in a variety of techniques. Though John Marshall believed that the practice of filling hollow pieces with a Inc core was of Greek origin, there is evidence to suggest that inc occurs even in the jewellery of the Indus valley. Few Indian gem-set jewels were made without a Inc centre. (Lac, a natural resin secreted by an insect, is produced exclusively in India.)

By the 1st century A.D., the entire jewellery manufacturing industry was in an advanced stage of excellence. Craftsmen were adept at extricating impurities and melting gold, beating it into sheets, forming it into shapes by soldering component pieces, casting from moulds, and decorating the finished product by engraving, repousse, granulation, filigree and inlay. The influx of Greek craftsmen to India in the post-Alexander era introduced new techniques. 

Stamped gold units with applied filigree and faceted granules are linked together. The term for the ornament derives from the cups (kuzhi) that shine (minna).These influences combined with the jewellers' indigenous skills to produce some of the most spectacular surviving items of ancient Indian craftsmanship. To the local skill of incrustation, Greek craftsmen introduced granulation and filigree, whose origins can be traced to the Sumerians. Dating to the 1st century A.D., the Taxila gold hoard provides comprehensive evidence that the craftsman's knowledge of goldsmithing and metallurgy was in an advanced state.

The Taxila jewellery employed moulds and dies to form the structure of the jewel. Stone moulds of two types were used. Solid pieces were cast by pouring molten metal into hollow moulds and sheet gold was worked by taking impressions off one-piece moulds (434). Copper and bronze dies were employed for the heavier pieces. Once complete, entire surfaces were covered with minute granules of gold in what is known as "field grain work";" or filigree, whereby fine wires, plain, twisted or plaited, were soldered on to the surface of the finished jewel in decorative patterns. In addition to these techniques, two types of incrustation were used to decorate and embellish jewellery surfaces. Precious and semi-precious stones were enclosed in cloisons formed by thin metal strips, the edges turned in to hold the stone securely in place, the compartments positioned close to each other covering the entire surface, or alternatively randomly scattered in cloisons.

The legacy of ancient craftsmanship is exemplified in this finely-worked sheet gold bracelet in the form of fishes.Designs and manufacturing techniques travelled the trade routes from one region to the other. With a vast and ancient repertoire at his fingertips, the jeweller continued to produce beautiful pieces of jewellery. Since fashions were fairly constant over several centuries, with only subtle variations, the Indian craftsman grew imaginative. While flora and fauna remained the core of his inspiration, he ceased to be merely imitative. Fantastic forms emerged, decorative details grew even more complex, and ornaments became veritable icons. He sometimes borrowed from other disciplines and even combined more than one technique to achieve the best possible result. Even the cire perdue or lost wax process was used in some parts of India, such as Rajasthan, to fashion anklets and bracelets.

Writer – Usha R Bala Krishnan & Meera Sushil Kumar

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