Fine jewelry is an integral part of Indian tradition and culture—and is worn for almost every occasion by women, men, and children. 

So, what makes it so special? Indian jewelry is known for being elaborate, bold, intricate, and beautifully detailed – we always say, there is nothing like Indian jewelry. It has a distinctive look that is admired all over the world. Wearing these fine jewels isn’t just to accessorize… it’s an art form and a way to express oneself with its rich history.  

Here, we take a look at the history of Indian jewelry, its various types, and how to choose the perfect piece for you.

History of Indian Jewelry

History of Indian Jewelry

Indian jewelry can be traced back over 5000 years to the Indus Valley civilization, where early jewelry was handcrafted and worn with pride. Since then, India has developed very distinct styles and techniques—creating remarkable pieces time and time again. The great Maharajas and Maharanis of India wore many notable pieces, many of which can be seen in museums today. The vast geographical landscape of the country meant that distinct groups of people created distinct styles of jewelry, which were suitable to their region. This adds to the wide range of jewelry styles that Indian jewelry represents have today.

Materials Used in Indian Jewelry

Diamonds, gold, pearls, and gemstones are popular materials for Indian jewelry. 22k yellow gold holds great value in India and is seen as an asset. Gold is one of the most popular metals in Indian jewelry as it’s believed to be an auspicious material and symbolizes Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity and fortune. Gemstones are the heart of Indian jewelry as they allow elaborate patterns and gorgeous color to be added to the designs. Popular gemstones include turquoise, ruby, sapphire, topaz, agate, jade and amethyst. These gemstones not only add color but also value to the jewelry.

Gemstones are also chosen for their mystical healing powers, and are believed to bring wealth, prosperity, good health and happiness to a person. Diamonds are highly coveted in Indian jewelry but especially when creating Polki (more on this below). Diamonds increase the value and affordability of jewelry but also make them heirloom quality pieces. Unlike in the West where pearl strands are popular, in India, pearls are paired with other gemstones and metals to create elaborate jewelry pieces. The opacity of the pearls combined with the sparkle and color of gemstones makes for stylish and modern jewelry.

Types of Indian Jewelry

Types of Indian Jewelry

There are many, many types of Indian jewelry but below, we’ve listed and explained a few of the most popular styles.

Kundan Jewelry (a.k.a. Bikaneri or Jaipuri Jewelry)

 Kundan jewelry is one of the most popular types of Indian jewelry and is especially famous in Rajasthan. It refers to a type of gemstone jewelry, where highly refined gold is combined with gorgeous gemstones to create elaborate and intricate pieces. The word ‘Kundan’ means pure gold. What defines Kundan jewelry is the layer upon layer of stones and metals that are joined to form beautiful designs. Each stone is mounted in its own metal foil, which frames it, accentuates its shape, and separates it from the other stones in the design.

The back of Kundan jewelry is typically enameled using the Meenakari technique which can make the piece reversible and therefore more versatile. Kundan is typically worn by brides and wedding guests or can be worn to any formal function. Many modern Indian women style Kundan jewelry with contemporary clothing to give it a chic and modern look.

Meenakari Jewelry

Meenakari refers to an enamel technique is that is used in various types of Indian jewelry. As mentioned above, Kundan jewelry often features Meenakari enameling. The beauty of Meenakari is in its vivid, bright colors and smooth, polished appearance. It’s an excellent jewelry style for fun, modern pieces as well as for traditional Indian jewelry designs. When you look at a piece of Meenakari jewelry, you might assume at first that it’s all colorful gemstones, but on closer observation, you’ll notice the enamel artwork. Meenakari is typically paired with pearls, diamonds, and other colorful gemstones.

Polki Jewelry

Polki jewelry is one of the most notable types and is stunning when crafted properly. Polki features rough, uncut diamonds paired with gold and other gemstones. The diamonds aren’t polished to sparkle, and it’s the raw look that gives Polki jewelry its distinct look. Because Polki jewelry is made of diamonds, it goes without saying that the pieces are typically expensive. It’s a sign of wealth and status to own Polki jewelry and these are typically cherished and passed down generations as precious heirlooms. Most Polki pieces feature Meenakari work on the underside, similar to Kundan.