What are some favourite pieces of jewellery?
Jewellery was always part of giving a reward in our family. We would procure and wear a piece of jewellery, whether new or handed-down on important occasions. If I did well at school, or for birthdays or arangetrams, jewellery played an important role. I can remember that I got a pair of jhumkis and a bird-earring because I scored well in Hindi or did well in Maths. Rewards were like that and it reinforced my fondness for jewellery.
Every time I pick up a piece of jewellery, it brings back a memory about how I bought it or how it was given to me. Of course there are occasions when I fasten it in my bag, take it off in the car and wear it while I am driving. We live in these mad times when one has to do these things.
The Gaylord necklace
As a child, I used to love what is called the Gaylord necklace. I don’t know the Tamil word for it, but it is famous in Kerala. It is a plain gold choker with thin, small, diamond shaped gold leaves placed one beside the other in tightly packed rows. Everytime you turned your neck, it would shimmer. My mother didn’t care much for this piece of jewellery but I loved it. As I grew up, my tastes changed, and I stopped caring for this so much.
The two headed bird
This piece is a diamond necklace with a ganda bherunda or iruthalai pakshi. It was the insignia of the Mysore royal family. It was made for my mother-in-law when she was a young girl. It was a long piece. I got one half of it and my sister in laws got the other half. I would definitely like to pass this heirloom to my daughter.
Here's a funny story:
I bought a jhumki for Samyukta some ten or twelve years ago. We both went to this famous jewellery store in Chennai. We were so taken up with it that we bought it. We paid X amount, bought it and came home. I showed it to my mother-in-law and she said, “Wow, there are no diamonds on the reverse.” That’s when we realized that this jhumki does not have diamonds in the reverse, only in front. We couldn’t even imagine doing something like this. Anyway, we liked the design so we decided to keep it.
If you could commission a piece of jewellery
Between my mother, my daughter and I, we commission jewellery all the time. Things we design. We open up an old piece which we don’t use and use the stones to create a new piece. If I were to make one, I would make something for my daughter, Sam
What are your memories of jewellery growing up in a family such as yours?
I have always been fond of jewellery and that has been carefully nurtured, predominantly by my mother. Being a dancer helped. Even though I studied a Convent (Church Park) in Chennai, there were many occasions because of dance class where I had to go in a “pavadai-chatte,” (long skirt and blouse). And when you wear this, you do wear traditional Indian jewellery– for Vijaya-dashami, Ayudha-Puja, Salangai-puja and many other occasions.
Jewels in Tamil culture
In Indian culture, right from the time a child is born, we use jewellery. For the thottil or cradle ceremony, a gold chain given by the grandparents or aunt is a must. “Kaiyila valai, kazhuthila chain, Iduppukku araijanam, kaallila golusu.” Bangles for the hand, necklace for the neck, araijnanam for the waist and anklets for the ankles. I have always enjoyed this because I believe in tradition and culture.
What do you relish about the act of wearing jewellery?
Every time I adorn myself with jewellery– every time any lady adorns herself– there is some emotion or feeling that goes into it. All Indian women, especially dancers like me, wear a lot of jewellery on a daily basis. I wear my nose ring, my finger ring, my watch, my bangles, my maangalyam. I use anklets. I don’t use toe-rings often because it hinders me when practicing.
My grandmother's ring
I used to love my grandmother’s ring. It was a simple gold ring with two small hearts and one large lock in the middle. Beautifully crafted. I asked her to lend it to me. She said if she lent it, it wouldn’t fit my finger and I would lose it. I fought and cried and threw a tantrum and got it– and lost it within half hour. We tried to recreate it but it was not as good as the original.
Who is the style or jewellery icon that you look up to?
There is so much happening in the designing of jewellery. I see youngsters mixing old pieces with trendy jewellery.
That said, my jewellery icons are the Gods in the temple. I love looking at the kind of jewellery that we put on the Gods in our temples. I was told that Srirangam temple has the best collection of temple jewellery, very hard to replicate.
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