Kundan jewellery carries a classic appeal that makes it a perfect choice for bridal look.
Jewellery on a bride is one of the highlights of her special day. Brides across the country wear their own traditional designs made from unique techniques specific to the craft of the jewellery.
Kundan is one such ancient type of jewellery that utilises special crafts that have been passed down through generations. Kundan jewellery has been making a come-back with women starting to prefer these in place of real diamonds for celebrations.
What Is Kundan Jewellery?
People always confuse between Kundan, Polki and real diamonds. Before we see their differences, let us first focus on what exactly Kundan jewellery is.
Kundan jewellery is a unique craft with which glass pieces are set in gold strips of 24 karats. Kundan is one of the oldest forms of jewellery dating back to the Mughal and Rajput periods, over 2500 years.
The designs are elaborate and regal and can be made to suit the bride. They are fit for a royal wedding; well, they would be, as they were crafted for that purpose in the olden days by the jewellers of Indian royalty.
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Kundan Jewellery – Origin And History
The general belief is that the Kundan’s emerged in the Kingdoms of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is also widespread knowledge that Kundan was a popular accessory among the royalty of Mughals.
The artists who were skilled in the craft of Kundan were more in numbers and also rewarded well for a work done well. Even today, Jaipur, Bikaner and other adjacent cities are renowned for their Kundan work.
The Craft Of Kundan
The process of creating any piece of magnificent art requires time, patience and the hands of talented artists. Jewellery fit for the queens of Delhi and Rajasthan were definitely exceptional pieces of art.
The craft of Kundan is a very long and technically complicated process. It needs artists who are trained in the required skills as a small mistake in any of the steps can ruin the value of the jewellery.
The name Kundan means pure gold as in the 24 karat gold used in the jewellery. Even though the gold used is in its highly refined pure form, the quantity of gold involved in creating Kundan is very minimal as the stones are the focal point in this type.
- Ghaat: Gold sheets are beaten by hand to make them fine and thin.
- The sheets are then made into small cups for the stones.
- Paadh: The gold cups are filled with laakh.
- With the help of hot coal, the stones are placed inside the cups.
- Khudai: A thin film of gold covers the laakh to make it look glossy.
- Pakai: The gold sheets with the stones are joined with the frame of the ornament by means of soldering.
- Finally, the finished piece is washed to remove remains from soldering.
The process of creating even a small piece of Kundan perfectly takes a lot of time. It may require 2 to 4 months depending on the design and the skill of the artisan.
Evolution of Kundan Over Time
Initially, these were unique jewellery specifically crafted for the royalty and the wealthy of the society. Over time, especially in recent times, since the jewellery is available for anyone, the craftsmanship is not what was all those years ago.
Also, to make it economical, they are made in Silver and Copper leading to depreciation in the quality of jewellery and workmanship. Authentic and quality artisans are hard to come by.
Kundan vs Other Stone Jewellery
Kundan uses stones made of glass, not diamonds or any other precious stones. The glass stones are set in gold. Polki is the usual jewellery that is mixed up with Kundan by people who are unfamiliar with the craft.
Polki is crafted very similarly to Kundan but uses raw uncut diamonds in the place of glass stones in its jewellery.
Meenakari and Jadau are other jewellery commonly confused with Kundan. Meenakari is a Persian style jewellery craft that uses an enamel coating on the front and back of the jewellery.
Meenakari can be done on a Kundan jewel but it is not the same as Kundan itself. Jadau, however, has a similar process to Kundan involving the setting of the precious stones on softened gold and allowed to harden without the addition of any adhesive.
The difference lies in the stone where Jadau uses precious stones specifically and Kundan uses glass pieces.
How Expensive is Kundan Jewellery?
Kundan does not use any precious stones in its jewellery. So it is definitely less in cost when compared to Polki and jewellery with cut diamonds or other precious stones.
However, the technique and time required to create a Kundan piece leave with a price tag that is no way cheap. The price range begins at Rs 50,000 for a piece of jewellery. It also depends on the type of size, size of the jewellery, additional enamelling or other embellishments made.
There are cheaper options even within the Kundan where instead of the gold sheets, silver or copper are used. Although these metals might not give you the same look as gold Kundan, this is a viable alternative when your budget does not cover the original Kundan jewellery.
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How to Identify Original Kundan from Cheap Glass Jewellery?
- Original Kundan jewellery will carry the BIS hallmark logo, a 3 digit number, logo of the assaying centre, date of hallmarking and logo or code of the jeweller.
- Silver Kundan will lose its lustre and darken after a few weeks whereas, Gold Kundan will not change its colour. If the opposite happens to either one, then it is a fake.
- You can use a magnet to see if you can feel the attraction pull. If it does, then the jewellery is fake.
Cultural Significance of Kundan in India
Traditional wedding jewellery is heavy in weight, intricacy and craftsmanship. Brides look regal adorned from head to toe in Kundan. Kundan suits wedding attire better than original diamonds.
Hence, the lighter weight Kundan is gaining popularity among Indian Brides as they are choosing to be comfortable while looking royal on their day of celebration.
Kundan in Bollywood
The Kundan jewellery came into fashion with a lot of period films highlighting the grandeur of the royal attire and jewels worn by Mughals, Rajputs, etc.
The jewellery worn by Aishwarya Rai as Jodha in the movie Jodha Akbar is not only a memorable performance but also an important inclusion of the Kundan trend in wedding fashion.
Earlier to that, Rekha’s accessories from Umrao Jaan also showcased a lot of excellent Kundan accessories that impressed its presence on screen.
How to take care of your Kundan Jewellery?
- Keep away from heat. Heat can affect the colour, shape and fit of the stones.
- Avoid moisture and closed places for longer periods of time. Lack of air can lead to oxidising reaction on the gold sheet.
- Do not store multiple pieces of Kundan together. Keep them stored in separate plastic bags with zip locks.
- Clean the jewellery using warm water and non-detergent based soap. Wipe it dry with a soft cloth before storing it in a dry place.
- Get your jeweller to check for loosening of stones or for signs of wear once a year. Get it polished and cleaned professionally once in a while if possible.
- Avoid direct contact with perfumes, cologne or any abrasive cleaning sprays.
- Wear the jewellery after you are done with your hair and makeup to avoid too much direct contact with chemicals from makeup, hair spray, etc.
Kundan jewellery is a type of traditional Indian jewellery that has its roots in the Mughal and Rajput empires. Kundan is the glass stones placed in intricate designs embedded in a hand-beaten gold sheet and attached to a frame by soldering or welding.
The Kundan jewellery is preferred by brides to accessorise their wedding attire as these are heavy with exquisite designs and presents a regal look. It was popularised in recent times through famous period films of Bollywood and deservedly gotten the attention it has now.
Kundan involves highly sensitive techniques, craftsmanship, time and a lot of patience for the making of jewellery. It takes around 2 to 4 months to complete even a small piece of jewellery with proper craftsmanship and skilled artisans.
The diverse design options in Kundan Jewellery is enough reason to invest in a couple of pieces to go with your bridal attire.