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 natural stones such as druzy, chalcedony, and agate. Druzy stones are cut and arranged by size. Given that they have a natural shimmer to them, thanks to the collection of crystals on the mineral, the stones are left as is. They’re simply arranged in either a necklace, earring, or ring.
Agate stones, however, are often dyed, or their colors are accentuated. They are cut, dyed, and sorted by size. While the stones are being prepped, the artisans develop the metal setting that they’ll be placed in. The shape of the jewelry is crafted at this stage. It’s then cleaned thoroughly for the plating process.
For pieces that will be gold plated, the setting then needs to be dipped into molten metals multiple times. Copper, which is frequently used as a base layer, under the gold, can surface and tarnish. To avoid this, the artisans allow for a second coat -- generally, silver, which stops the copper from reaching the surface. And finally, it’s topped with gold.
The finished piece must then hang and dry completely. Since it’s hand-crafted process, in its entirety, each piece is likely to be slightly different than the other.