Jewelry (also spelled Jewellery) has been an important part of the culture in what is now the country of India for at least 5000 years. In fact, the very first diamonds were mined in India and some beads discovered there date back to the 7th millennium. Information on early India suggests that ancient jewelry was fashioned from certain natural materials that were found in abundance throughout the country. These raw materials included seeds, berries, clay, feathers, leaves, flowers, fruits, stone, and wood in addition to animal bones, claws and teeth. The geography and lifestyle differences of Indians throughout the country account for regional variations in the style and material of the jewelry.
As in many ancient cultures as well as today, the amount and type of jewelry one wore was a status symbol. It played an important role in other things too, such as religion, ceremonial practices, and traditional Indian dances. Both ancient men and women were known to wear jewelry, but most women whether rich or poor would adorn themselves with as much jewelry as possible.
Indian jewelry pieces were made for almost all body parts. Popular pieces included necklaces, anklets, Pendants, earrings, bracelets, bangles, chokers, finger rings, nose pins, nose rings, toe rings, waist bands, crowns and thin bands of gold worn on the forehead, and amulets. Indians were adorned with jewels from their hair to their feet. The jewels came in many styles and materials including precious and semi- precious stones, gold, sterling silver, copper, and even ivory.
Typically worn by royalty such as kings and queens, especially in South India, temple jewelry has been around since the 9th century. It got the name because this regal jewelry was often given to the temple by royalty as an offering to the gods or deities. This exquisite looking jewelry was made of some of the finest materials available. Artisans would combine precious and semi-precious stones, including diamonds, rubies and emeralds with the highest quality gold, which had to be imported. The jewelry was known to be voluminous or chunky. A number of common themes for temple jewelry include god and goddess figures, flowers, peacocks, dancers, and some more abstract themes like dots, waves, and zigzag patterns.
Ancient Indian jewelry has a distinct look however it did vary in style from region to region. For example, rudraksha beads are often found in South Indian jewelry. These popular beads were thought to have a spiritual power. Thewa, originating in Rajasthan in Northwest India, is an ancient art form of melding gold and multi-colored glass pieces. These handcrafted pieces took an extraordinary amount of skill and time to make. Each piece took about a month to complete from start to finish. Meenakari jewelry, was introduced to artisans in Rajasthan as well. This ancient jewelry involved a lot of teamwork to complete. This Indian art involved adorning metal with gemstones, both precious and semi-precious stones. The result is a colorful and somewhat delicate look that is incorporated in all types of jewelry. Although ancient Indian jewelry has largely been replaced with modern day styles, the ancient influence is still reflected in designs today.