Any jewelry enthusiast will want to pick up the incredible two-volume coffee table book Traditional Indian Jewellery by Bernadette van Gelder.
Many of the world’s famous jewels can be traced back to India. The Koh-i-Noor Diamond, which is now part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, and the Hope Diamond, which is is now a resident at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., are just a few examples of rich, lengthy, and sometimes bloody histories of stones that lead back to the country.
Van Gelder chronicles the stories of these diamonds along with other traditional styles of Indian jewelry so ingrained in the country’s culture. She spent 35 years researching, traveling, studying, and talking to people across India and had access to artisans, goldsmiths, and enamelers. She was shown family-secret techniques and never-before-seen royal collections.
“Throughout my travels, I was invited into traditional workshops where I witnessed the making of jewellery in all its aspects,” van Gelder wrote in her introduction. “During one of these visits, by chance I was introduced to (someone who turned out to be) a very special person. He offered us some lovely masala chai (an Indian tea) and started to unpack the most beautiful pieces of jewellery I had ever seen. ”
Van Gelder’s passion for traditional Indian jewelry, its rich stories and symbolism, its artistry and lore, shines through these volumes. That passion is matched only by her love of the country itself.
“My travels in India have been a constant divide between highs and lows, euphoria and tragedy, amazement and recognition, but beauty has always prevailed!” she writes. “It is the beauty of this country and its people, a subcontinent of such tremendous contradictions, that keeps my adrenaline going and my inspiration flowing. India itself is an experience, allow it to come in and you never know what it may mean or where it may lead you…. I fell in love with India, the people and their jewellery.”
Take our advice. Buy this book!
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Gold baleora necklace with name pendant, Rajasthan, 19th century
Gold necklace, Gujurat, late 18th century
Gold ear ornaments, Tamil Nadu, 19th century
Ear pendants, Rajasthan, 20th century
Necklace with gold pendants, Jaipur, 19th century
Top: Traditional Indian Jewellery by Bernadette van Gelder
Kristin Young is writing the On Your Market blog while Brittany Siminitz is on maternity leave.