Kundan jewellery is something exquisite, almost magical to look at, its regal bearing making it the favourite of brides across India. What gives Kundan jewellery its unique glimmer is the fact that it uses glass and not precious stones. This delicate craft was brought to India by the Mughals, and perfected by the royal courts of Rajasthan. Ever since, Kundan jewellery has adorned the women of India, creating a legacy in the domain of handcrafted jewellery.
Kundan means pure gold, and this refers to the purity of the base, not the stones, as is sometimes believed. It can be confused with the similar crafts of Meenakari and Polki, but there are slight differences that separate them. While Polki uses uncut diamonds in place of glass, Meenakari is the craft of enamelling the back of kundan-made jewellery to create colourful, etched designs.
The process of creating Kundan work is rather long and hard. Craftsmen with various skill sets take up the making process one stage after another with absolute precision. They are painstakingly careful and there is no room for error.
The first step of the process is called ghaat. True to the meaning of the word, it involves beating the sheet of gold to achieve the desired shape and creating small crevices in which to fit the glass. Gold being the softest metal there is, can be beaten into very fine sheets and moulded easily.
After the cavities have been made, laakh, or tree sap is layered into the cavities, which acts as a glue for the glass. The process is known as paadh.
The glass pieces need to be cut and shaped previously according to the design of the jewellery piece. These glass pieces will then be placed into the cavities, but before they are, there is one more crucial step which is what adds the actual shine to the jewellery. This process is called khudai, and it involves placing a very fine layer of gold foil over the laakh with a stick, just before placing the glass allowing it to reflect the gold and not become translucent once the laakh dries up.
Once dry, the glass and gold are soldered to fuse them thoroughly. The jewellery is cleaned and then polished using a process called chillai. Finally, you have an ethereal ornament that becomes your favourite because of its unmatched beauty and elegance.
Kundan work looks beautiful in every form, whether it is chaand baalis, neckpieces, maang tikkas, bangles or even anklets. It is the epitome of how simplicity can create a magnificent effect and shine brighter than a chandelier. Its association with royalty has made it one of the most popular forms of jewellery to wear at any festive occasion. A simple neckpiece or pair of earrings will brighten up your outfit and make you the queen wherever you are!