White metal craft is used to make various kinds of jewellery like chains, necklaces, earrings, rings, anklets etc. Gujarati women take to wearing these ornaments especially on Navratri and these are often passed on as family heirlooms.
Ornaments here are worn both my men and women, adding to their self expression. Jewellery is considered a mark of cultural identity and pride, other than a means for embellishment.
In the bustling market places of the old city, the white metal jewellers co-exist with the silversmiths. Pure silver is always popular in terms of delicate pieces of jewellery for special occasions or for religious articles..
Navratri in Ahmedabad is a time when the city never sleeps. The sale of white metal jewellery is at high speed. They are bought to match with the resplendent costumes, to embody the festivity and match up with their gleam.
Myths & Legends
It is difficult to mark a time for the discovery of jewellery. The act of adorning the self would have been an innate trait that in India, the oldest pieces of jewellery known and found dates to more than 5000 years ago.
Any naturally obtained material was the raw material to make jewellery. Feathers, seeds, leaves, shells and even animal bones. These are still integral components of tribal jewellery. In the sites of ancient Indus Valley civilisations, many hand-made accessories have been excavated. It was discovered that both men and women wore jewellery. Along with accessories made of terracotta, there were ones made from gold and silver bangles, gold beads, and agate and onyx beads were found at Indus Valley sites such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan and at Lothal, Rakhigarhi, and Dholavira in India.
Jewellery has then on taken new forms and dimensions in the lives of the people. It ceased to be mere adornment but also expressed identity, but also great symbolic significance. It spoke of the rank and status of the wearer. It has magical properties with inscribed amulets or with figures of local deities to protect the wearer from evil.
Jewellery developed as a symbol of status when the society turned settled agrarian from nomadic. The jeweller was also given great importance in the society. The state of jewellery was also exalted with the fact that it was the only form of investment which could be used in emergencies. In the Vedic society, jewellery was considered to be Sthreedhan (woman's wealth) - comprising a part of inheritance from her father and gifts from the husband. Jewellery was an essential on married woman. When she was widowed, it was taken away. This too speaks of how jewellery was eloquent of a person's state or role in society.
Jewellery was crafted not only for humans, but also for the ceremonial elephants and horses and idols of gods and goddesses. India was a treasure trove and various types of jewellery developed over time. The influences were from natural forms, to that of invaders or changing rules. While the designs in solid gold jewellery of Tamil Nadu and Kerala are inspired by nature and the temple culture, the Meenakari and Kundan styles of jewelry making have been influenced by the Mughal dynasty. Then there is a huge range of silver beads found all over India, especially in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Their availability lead to the development of the bead jewelry, popular till date. Assamese jewellery is influenced by local flora and fauna, Manipuri jewelry-makers make use of items like shells, animal claws, teeth and precious and semi-precious stones. The country is specked with numerous examples and variations of the work of skilled craftspersons.
In Ahmedabad, the white metal jewellery holds a strong Kutchi flavour. The pieces are made to be affordable imitations of the traditional jewellery designs. During festivals like Navratri , a year's sales is known to have happened in a day.
Embossed patterns or coiled shapes are crafted onto the silver sheets, acting as base. There are designs with coiled wires too. Coloured glass beads and stones of various shapes, sizes and colours. Little bells or ghungroos are added to many pieces. Tassels and shells add to the vibrant tribal flavour. Many are also finished in a manner in which it resembles old silver jewellery with an oxidising polish. The designs vary from replications of traditional designs to contemporary modifications.
The sale of the white metal jewellery fluctuates seasonally. During festivities and celebrations, these are bought in abundance. Otherwise it caters to a sparse crowd or tourists.