In Homage to India’s Jewel Culture
For Rajiv Arora and Rajesh Ajmera, founders of Amrapali, one of India’s largest jewelry houses, their country’s heritage has not only influenced their modern designs, it also has led to the creation of a museum.
Traveling the subcontinent as history graduates in the early 1980s, Mr. Arora and Mr. Ajmera were inspired to create a contemporary jewelry brand after discovering for themselves India’s rich heritage in the decorative arts. Over the next 35 years, they amassed some 3,000 examples: from 500-year-old “rural village” creations, Mr. Arora said, to contemporary designs like a circa-1960 silver, gold and glass Araipatta waist band.
Their collection now will be housed in a 6,500-square-foot space, an annex to Amrapali’s corporate headquarters in Jaipur, scheduled to open next month. They say it will be the first museum of its kind in India’s gem capital.
Exhibits will include jewelry and decorative objects and, most notably, will showcase India’s gold- and silversmithing heritage. Among their pieces are a silver-and-gold turban pin from the 19th- or 20th-century, shaped like a bird and adorned with turquoise, amber and ruby; a selection of hand-hammered 19th-century gold earrings from Tamil Nadu, in southern India; and textiles embellished with gold and silver in techniques like zari (threading), khadi printing and gold leafing.
Historic jewelry meant to adorn every part of the body also will be featured, including hair ornaments, a bridegroom’s crown and nose rings, as well as armlets, anklets and toe rings. Personal objects include a pair of gold, silver, ruby and emerald slippers and a fish-shaped, silver-and-gold case made for storing eye kohl.
Preservation is at the heart of the museum, Mr. Arora said, noting that, in India, old jewelry often is refashioned as tastes change, or even melted down.
“The museum will not only be for tourists,” he said, “but also an interesting place for designers and other organizations, from New York, London and Paris.”
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