You must be wondering why I chose to post this topic. Then I must say that, being from a Jeweller’s family I have always had an inclination towards Jewellery designing. The process involved is so interesting that it just pulls you in, to know more about it.
WHY WRITE ONLY ABOUT THEWA?
India is a land of colours. Our rich cultural heritage is what makes us different from the rest of the world. Indian Jewellery has inspired many designers since time immemorial. With time and passing generations Jewellery designs have also evolved. However there are certain Traditional Jewellery designs and patterns which have never really gone out of trend. These in fact are the ones which have kept our culture alive over the time. Thewa is one such art form.
Vibrant, Colourful, Exotic, Traditional, Fascinating and Royal, this is one exceptional Jewellery art form of Rajasthan which stands out from the rest of the Jewellery types. Before I take you back into the History and the process used in making this unique jeweler which has been a very closely guarded secret, let me just give you a few very Interesting Facts about Thewa.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THEWA
Thewa Jewellery was discovered by the Mughal dynasty in seventeenth century, roughly about 400 years ago and was very popular among many Maharajas and their Courts men.
Pratapgarh, a small city in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan for many decades was the only place in the world where this Jewellery was being designed.
Families who are involved in crafting of this rare form of Jewellery are so less that they could be counted on fingers. Shrouded in complete mystery, the artisans involved in crafting Thewa keep their doors closed with the fear of divulging family secrets to their daughter-in-laws. As a result the legacy and the art are being carried forward from the father only to his son.
This is apparently the only Jewellery type which uses 23 Carat purity of gold in making the Jewellery.
A special Thewa gift was given by the Government of India to Prince Charles on his marriage.
One of the leading craftsmen, Mahesh Raj Soni of the traditional artisans family involved in designing Thewa has won National Award 8 times and got his name registered in the Limca Book of Records for this scintillating art.
To encourage and felicitate this rare & unique form of Jewellery designing, Government of India has also issued a Postal stamp and a miniature sheet in year 2004. Photographs below:
Origin of Thewa dates back to year 1767, when Maharaja Samant Singh, King of the Princely State of Kishangarh, Mewar decided to patronage this art and granted a jagir to Nathu Lal Sonewal, who is believed to be the invented the art in year 1707 and also gave them a Title of “Raj Soni”. The art which was popular amongst the Mewar Kings however flourished especially during the Victorian era when a number of pieces were being sent to European countries and gained recognition in the British Antique Market. Some of these pieces about 250 years old can be seen in the personal collection of Queen Elizabeth and some local Indian and British Museums. For hundreds of years the skill and expertise required to create Thewa Jewellery was only known to the craftsmen of Pratapgarh (Rajasthan) and Rampura (Madhya Pradesh). However, recently the cities like Jaipur, Ratlam & Indore have also achieved widespread fame for this jewellery craft.
PROCEDURE USED TO CRAFT THEWA JEWELLERY; AN ETERNAL SECRET
THEWA is a word derived from the local Rajasthani language which literally means “SETTING”. Thewa is an art of fusing 23ct gold with multicoloured glass. The process followed is very detailed and intricate. A 23ct gold piece is first beaten into a very thin sheet. Intricate designs are inscribed on these gold sheets using very fine chisels. This gold sheet also called as “Thewa Ki Patti” is fixed to a lac-resin compound spread on a board by slightly warming the lac and then pressing the gold sheet onto it. An open work pattern is pierced thru these gold sheets placed on the lac-resin covered board by knocking off the portions which ultimately create the intricate design required by the customer. This gold sheet is being gently peeled off by heating it. Themes used in such Thewa design range from Floral patterns, Historical Mughal Courtly scenes, scenes from Battles, Portraits of Queens and Hindu Mythology, most popular being Krishna Leelas.
The gold patterned sheet is now thoroughly washed and all extra substances are removed with a mild acid. A piece of glass of the same size as the gold pattern is chosen and encased in a frame of silver. The thin sheet of patterned gold is then fixed to the silver border. While it is still hot, the rim of silver and film of gold are delicately slipped over the edge and pressed on to the surface of the glass. The piece is then heated until the gold and the glass are firmly fused together. A thin silver foil is fixed on the other side of the glass to provide the final finish. The flat piece of transparent glass which is used as a background for the gold pattern comes in different colours such as maroon, green, blue & so on suggesting Ruby, Emerald and Sapphire finish.
As the work requires intricate detailing and skilful fusion of the gold into the glass base, the wastage is high. Overheating can break the glass or melt the gold. Alternatively, if not treated properly the gold pattern sheet does not fuse well and soon comes off. The craftsmen at Rampura have been using Belgian glass, from windowpanes of old houses and buildings, as the base for Thewa articles but this source has now been exhausted and finding glass with the right colours is becoming difficult. As a result, Thewa pieces can now be found in a new range of colours and materials: lemon, white, black. Some of these are original, while others are obtained, often using plastics.
Unlike other form of Jewelleries the actual value or price of a Thewa Jewellery lies in the skill and the time that goes into hand crafting each incredible piece of jewellery rather than the intrinsic value of gold.
Photograph of a Necklace designed by me as a gift to my wife on our First Wedding Anniversary. Decided to go with a Green glass as I wanted it to look very traditional & ethnic. Centre piece has a scene taken from “Raas Leela” of Lord Krishna & Radha with peacocks sitting on each side. And the next piece to the centre piece on either side has a Gopi standing with a Veena in Her hands. Needless to mention that this is one of its kind piece as it is my own design. The craftsmen took approx 2 weeks to complete the piece.
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