Traditional Indian jewellery making

In the late 16th century, Mughal court goldsmiths combined two techniques – kundan setting and enamelling – creating a new style that is still used in traditional Indian jewellery. We travelled to workshops in Mumbai and Jaipur to see how these crafts are used in the production of an enamelled gold earring.

Mughal court goldsmiths set ornaments and luxury artefacts with precious stones using pure gold, or 'kundan', a historic Indian process. For the first time, they added enamel to the back or inner surfaces of ornaments thereby adding hidden interest that only the owner or wearer knew about. Enamelling was previously unknown in the subcontinent and was probably introduced from Europe.

Each stage of making kundan jewellery is done by a specialist craftsman. The sophisticated technique allows precious stones of any size or shape to be set into designs of great complexity. Kundan can also be used to set stones in jade or crystal.

Enamelling
See how the gold and enamelled earrings are made, in preparation for kundan-setting.

Kundan Setting
Kundan setting is the technique most closely associated with the jewelled arts of the Mughal emperors. By using pure, soft, 24-carat gold (kundan), the goldsmith can set gemstones directly into fragile enamelled surfaces, or into engraved gem materials, such as nephrite jade and rock crystal. This film, shot in workshops in Mumbai and Jaipur, shows a jewellery craftsman kundan setting diamonds in an enamelled gold earring.

Background image: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London