KOCHI: A slender strip of fine silver is cut into tiny pieces that are rolled into a leaf-like shape. A delicate glass bead is then mounted onto these sliver leaves to forge a perfect gemstone or polki. This is the art of crafting Kundan jewellery. Said to have originated in the regal palaces of Rajasthan and Gujarat, the laborious and intricate process is one of the oldest techniques of ornament making in India.
And city-based jewellery designer Chanchu George, who runs the brand Abharna Petite is bringing this unique craft to Kochi with her exclusive handcrafted collection of Kundan set jewellery for Onam to be exhibited at Skyline Topaz on Kaloor-Kadavanthra Road on Thursday.
Chanchu, who holds the distinction of being the first and in all likelihood the only woman silversmith in the state has attempted to marry a traditional north Indian craft with motifs inspired from the south of the country, specifically Kerala.
“My inspiration for this collection was floral rangolis or pookkalams that adorn houses during Onam season. My design process is very organic to the culture of the state. I want Malayalees to appreciate Kundan designs just as we treasure temple jewellery,” says Chanchu.
Chanchu created prototypes for each design which were then shipped to Gujarat to be recreated by an expert Kundan artisan who taught her the process of smouldering sliver. “I have set up a workshop in Ahmedabad where the collection was produced. These artisans have been making Kundan jewellery for generations so every piece is authentic and unique,” says Chanchu who will be featuring close to 200 items.
The exhibition will be inaugurated by Alan Alexander Kaleekal, a Thiruvananthapuram-based fashion designer, who was included in the ‘30 under 30’ list by Forbes India Magazine last year.
Chanchu’s design aesthetic is modern and minimal. Her regular collection was drafted keeping mind everyday tasks of a working woman. “Kundan jewellery by itself reminds one of the elaborate and heavy designs. It is hard to find minimal patterns but I sought to create exactly that. I am trying to bring Indian traditional jewellery designs into more wearable and contemporary forms that are versatile. My focus was on creating lightweight pieces that do not pull on the ear and are easy to carry.
Most designs in the collection can transition from regular workwear to a special dinner or party occasion. However, there are also a few pieces which are more ornate and fancy to be worn at weddings,” adds Chanchu. The collection starts at E2,000 and ranges up to E25,000.