Jaipur is India’s mecca for jewelry. Established as a city-- the first planned city in India, by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in the early 18th century, it became a center for arts, crafts, and luxury. The world’s finest gems were brought here to be cut with precision, cleaned, and set in intricate designs.
Jai Singh II was an ardent lover of the arts; he commissioned the country’s most skilled artisans to produce jewelry for his court, emerald-studded swords for himself, and even adornments for his royal fleet of elephants.
While Jaipur has enjoyed its Renaissance of the arts for over 200 years, the once beloved city has now had to reckon with more global forces: mass production, mechanization, and fluctuating metal prices.
Despite these obstacles, a few jewelry makers in the Pink City still prefer to craft their designs by hand. The artisans, no longer just locals, come from east India, particularly West Bengal. Bengalis, known for their fine craftsmanship, especially when it comes to filing, polishing, and working with small, difficult-to-handle pieces, have flocked to Jaipur. The smaller boutiques have about 50 in-house artisans; others can be as large as 200.
Though the royals would have draped themselves in diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, today’s jewelry designers are much more experimental with their designs and stones.
These include jewelry made from horn.
Horn is an fascinating material because it has thermoplastic properties, which means it can be softened and made malleable by heating-- unlike bone. Horn, in its most natural state, has a rough dull surface. That's why artisans sand and polish the horn. While cattle horn can be nearly any color, it is generally a light creamy color, sometimes streaked with white, brown or black patches. Sambhal, a small town near Delhi, is the hub of India's bone and horn industry. That is, bones and horns left over by the meat industry. The material is upcycled and turned into art, rather become waste.
Like our decor products are crafted out horn, artisans in Jaipur have adopted horn as a medium for jewelry as well-- sawing, sanding, drilling, and shaping the horn into uniqe shapes. It's juxtaposed with natural stones or metal accents.
Since it’s a hand-crafted process, in its entirety, each piece is likely to be slightly different than the other.