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This memory project documents the history of family-owned jewellery in India

The intricacy of craft, the quality of gold and gems used or simply the memories it evokes, no words can do justice to the beauty of the jewels owned by our grandmothers. Inspired by the same is a special Instagram-based memory project called Indian Family Jewels: Adornment Revealed, curated by Puja and Kunal Shah of Aurus, a fine jewellery brand based in Ahmedabad.

The stories surrounding jewellery are particularly fascinating yet they lack documentation. The Indian Family Jewels project is an effort to impart knowledge about as well as document India’s myriad jewellery styles and their cultural significance. It answers why we wear a certain ornament for our weddings, what is the meaning of the symbols, what are the roots (tribal, agrarian or royal) and also what were the materials used at the time. It is curated with the help of Border&Fall, a digital platform that is known for its cultural documentation project, The Sari Series. For the Indian Family Jewels, they have invited individuals to share personal narratives and used those to create consumable content for Instagram.

As the project unveils itself on Instagram over the course of the next few months, we talk to the Ahemdabad-based duo, Puja and Kunal Shah about how it all ties together. Puja’s interest in the world of jewellery developed while she was in New York to study genetics, where she decided to pursue jewellery design at FIT instead. Later followed up with a fellowship in the Asian Art Department at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This renewed interest in design led to the launch of Aurus, a fine jewellery label focused on exploring various Indian techniques and styles.

Talking about the generification of design, Kunal Shah points out how Indian design has always had a purpose to it, “From the way our houses, clothes to our jewellery, everything had a functional form. Every aspect of the jewellery had a form, motive and significance to it. It was very nicely nuanced, layered and contextualised to the way India lived. The Indian Family Jewels projects is an effort to understand and explore that.”

The first post or category of the series starts with exploring wedding jewels, starting with those belonging to Puja Shah herself. For her wedding, she wore a traditional Kaliganthi necklace that belonged to her Gujarati family for generations, one that she wasn’t fond of at that time. “For years the necklace found its place in the bank’s locker – it was the least “chic” piece of jewellery that I owned and for years I considered dismantling it. Years later, I had a newfound appreciation for this piece of jewellery, so much so that I went all the way to revamping it and making it the way it is today. Today, for me, the Kaliganthi necklace is a representation of my culture and my history,” she shares. This change in thought process is what pivoted the journey where both the husband-wife duo felt the need to have a passion project that captured the narrative history of family-owned jewellery.

“Jewellery is the best material memory keeper,” says Kunal Shah. “People move out of homes, clothes give way and so do other artefacts while jewellery is always well-preserved.” It is this desire to give voice and relevance to the narrative history of jewellery that led the husband-wife duo to create the Indian Family Jewels projects, one that they hope will be easily consumed and enjoyed by the internet generation.


All Images: Courtesy Indian Family Jewels. 

This memory project documents the history of family-owned jewellery in India

Akshita Nahar Jain

Sr Associate Editor

Akshita Nahar Jain has worked with various publications, including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar Bride, and Time Out Delhi, and written extensively on fashion and lifestyle. A sucker for alliteration and stylish sitcoms, she enjoys scrolling the web for less travelled destinations.

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