is a colorful style of jewellery that has grown during the Mughal era,
and was extremely famous with Rajasthan royalty. Over the centuries,
Meenakari was mixed with the traditional Rajasthani Kundan style of
jewellery, where smooth or uncut stones were set on 24 carat gold
jewellery using lac and fine pure gold foils. The result was
Meenakari or Enamelling is the art of colouring painting, and
decorating the surface of metals by fusing over luminous colours that
are ornamented in a elaborate pattern. The period of the Mogul era
have a great impact on jewelry patterns & art of jewelry making in
India. The Mogul emperor Shah Jahan invited the Persian artisans who
made world famous shiny silver articles to train their
master-craftsmen in the art of Painting. For the first time in
history, this well-known Persian painting art was engaged into making
jewelry artifacts and it marked the beginning of a wonderful era of
shiny 18kt to 22kt Mogul jewelry pieces. The artisans of the Mogul era
joined the sophisticated patterns & techniques of the Persian art with
Indian designs & colors to produce some of the finest examples of
painting anywhere in the world.
In Meenakari jewelry, valuable stones are set and then enameled with
gold. Meenakari is also a team work, where specialty of talent is of
supreme importance. As it is generally done on the reverse side of
Kundan jewellery, meenakar has to work with jeweller.
The word Kundan in Sanskrit really means pure shining gold or refined
gold. In Kundan jewellery the purest form of melted gold is used to
set stones. It is traditionally handmade and no machines are used in
making the jewellery. Several artisans are involved in making each
individual piece of jewellery. Every piece of Kundan jewellery is a
team effort in this team effort every individual craftsperson works on
a separate specific portion. Each artisan of the team uses the
particular method that he is skilled at and together they build a
attractive piece of Kundan jewellery. The chiterias create the basic
pattern, the ghaarias are responsible for making holes, the Meenakari
is done by the enameller and the goldsmith takes care of the Kundan or
gold. The jadiyas or stone setters set stones such as emerald, garnet,
jade, rock crystal, agate, topaz, amethyst, and spinel into the metal.
Meenakari is the technique or method of adding more artistic value to
this jewellery. The word ‘Meena’ stands for enamel and the work ‘Kari’
is the art. The art of Meenakari was also done on the palace walls of
Rajasthan. The same technique is capture on surface of jewellery.
In this method, powder or rocks from valuable stones are merged to
metal surfaces. Green Meena ideally comes out of an emerald stone.
Wastage which comes out an emerald is crushed into a fine powder, and
this powder after it gets cleaned is used to fill the negative spaces
on the surface of the jewellery. This is further baked in the oven
where the powder melts and sets into the art. This form of art is also
called Enamelling. The methods of this art have changed from time to
time depending on the availability of materials, demand and artisans.
The surprising bright colours which we see on Meenakari work nowadays
are metal oxides with fine powdered glass. Glass and other coloured
stones are crushed into very fine powder and prepared for enamelling.
Chemicals including ferrous salts, copper salts, cobalt oxide, and
some other salts are also used to increase or make the colours. This
is mixed in with various catalysts depending on the metal and colour
used. They are usually found in shiny colours of red, green,black,
ivory and blue. There are different varieties of Meenakari based on
its quality with the German Meena being one of the many.
traditionally used to set uncut Diamonds where 24 carat Gold Foil is
put in between the stones and mount. Uncut diamond is referred to as
Polki and the setting done in this manner is ‘Jadau’ also called
‘Jadai’ setting. In Jadau jewellery, only real uncut diamonds are
used. So a combination of real uncut diamonds, Kundan work and
Meenakari work jointly and make a jewellery piece called Jadau. It is
generally gifted to women in marriages and other favorable occassions.
Traditional Kundan jewellery has stones covered on one side and
colourful and elaborate Meenakari on the reverse. The whole procedure
of Kundankari lies in the skilful setting of gems and stones in gold.
Holes are cut for the gems, engraving is carried out and the pieces
are coated. The heart of the ornament is made out of lac, a natural
resin. Later, lac is place into the empty parts and is then visible
from the front, through the holes left for the gems. Highly refined
gold or Kundan is used to cover the lac and gems are then pushed into
Kundan work is a very old technique used entirely in India for setting
gemstones on silver and gold jewellery. It is the oldest form of
jewellery that was presently used in India. It is used to set
sapphires, diamonds, rubies and other precious gems to create
sophisticated pieces of jewellery and has been widespread in our
country before the introduction of the western method of claw settings
in the 19th century. Kundankari the art of skillfully setting gems and
stones is considered to be a very old and traditional profession which
has its origins in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and is said to have grown
greatly under the Mughal patronage.
The art was
introduced to Rajasthan artisans by Raja Mansingh of Amer. He invited
Lahore-based skillful artisans to his kingdom, and their mixing with
the locals craftsmen resulted in a combination, which came to be known
as Meenakari. In the beginning, the work of Meenakari often went
unobserved as this art was traditionally used as a support for the
famous Kundan or stone-studded jewellery. This also allowed the wearer
to reverse the jewellery!
Raja Man Singh of Amber brought master enamellers from Lahore to
Jaipur, Rajasthan in the 16th century. Jaipur is now the heart of
traditional Meenakari production. Elaborate Meenakari implemented on a
base of gold and Kundan has long been practiced at Jaipur and Bikaner.
Bikaner, Udaipur , and Nathdwara are well-known for their silver
Meenakari. Delhi and Banaras are also essential centers for Meenakari,
while Pratapgarh is known for glass painting. Meenakari from Varanasi
is characterized by a Pink shade on white paint and often employs a
lotus pattern. This style was brought from Persian craftsmen who
visited the court of Avadh at Lucknow in the 17th century.