Mala beads, the Bindi, the elaborate bib necklaces, Kangans, Nath, Maangtika, Jhoomar, Kamarbandh, Balis and Jhumkas, Vanki and Bajuband, Payal, Mangalsutra, and Thaali, are some of the common types of Indian jewelry options that have become increasingly popular in recent days, with men and women from all around the world now accessorizing with Indian jewelry from time to time.
But does it qualify as cultural appropriation when you wear Indian-themed jewelry?
In other words, are you being disrespectful when you wear Indian jewelry? Keep reading to learn more.
About Indian jewelry
Every culture of the world is known for a specific kind of jewelry, and Indians are known for a vast variety of unique jewelry options.
India boasts an extensive range of jewelry, and all Indian cultures are united by the vast range of jewelry offered in all styles and designs.
These options include elaborate jewelry sold as antiques, beaded, bridal, and handmade options in rings, bracelets, pendants, and a vast range of body jewelry.
What you may not know about Indian jewelry, however, is that the jewelry now enjoyed by Indian civilizations dates back to 5000-7000 years ago, during the era of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, all options of popularized jewelry.
Jewelry, believed to be derived from the Latin word, Jocale, meaning plaything, has been a crucial part of the Indian civilizations for centuries.
Beaded Indian jewelry, especially the beaded options, dates as far back as 1500BC, in the era of the Indus Valley Civilization. Initially, jewelry was made of shells, but these didn’t last as long, naturally.
But this changed soon after, thanks to the fact that India boasts an enormous supply of gems and precious metals, which is the reason for the richness of jewelry in India.
India had enough gems and precious metals to feed its people and others through exportation. The other exciting thing about Indian jewelry is that India was the first country in the world to mine diamonds, and thanks to the artistry of the 16th-century Mughals, India became home to the most artistic, elaborate, and valuable jewelry designs.
And today, there is no doubt that only an Indian woman will be adorned in jewelry from head to toe. All the pieces are elegant and valuable masterpieces, and the pieces highlight the essence/ aura of Indian women.
Today, there is a vast range of Indian jewelry and accessories that are used to adorn the entire body. These include ornaments for the hair, enamors for the ears, adornments for the necks, not to mention bracelets, bangles, anklets, and other adornments for the feet.
Body adornments are also as important. The different common types of Indian jewelry include bridal, pearl, temple, and meenakari.
Features of Indian jewelry
Use of precious metals – one feature that makes all Indian jewelry stand out is that the jewelry is designed elaborately using the finest quality materials, often 18k solid gold.
This is the standard material used for all Indian jewelry and is the undeniable mark of quality. Other than 18k gold, there are also several sterling silver options.
Yellow gold is the most prevalent metal used in jewelry making in India because it is considered an auspicious metal and a symbol of Lakshmi, the Indian goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity.
Precious gemstones – Besides the use of precious 18k solid yellow gold, Indian jewelry also stand out because they are made of the finest quality gemstones like diamonds.
There is also the use of rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, hence the most colorful gemstones set on the gold jewelry. Other gemstones include turquoise, jade, agate, amethyst, and topaz.
In addition to these gemstones’ beauty, they are also used because they carry mystical healing powers and bring good health, prosperity, wealth, luck, and happiness to the wearer.
Diamonds: The diamonds are incorporated into the most coveted styles of Indian jewelry called the Polki because the diamonds increase the value of the jewelry while also creating the best of family heirlooms.
Other than these precious stones, Indian jewelry stands out because they are made of the finest quality pearls. Indian jewelry is made with pearls and other gemstones for the perfect color and sparkle combination, hence the most stylish, modern jewelry.
Elaborate designs – nothing says elegant and elaborate better than the elaborately designed Indian jewelry. They are all made of the best quality stones, but the jewelry pieces’ artistry makes them stand out. All Indian jewelry is elaborate and bold, and they all promise to stand out.
Multiple types of jewelry – Indian jewelry also stands out because they come in different styles. There is essentially a jewelry style for every occasion, and they are all very well made. They boast elegant and bold adornments for the ears, nose, forehead, neck, waist, and feet.
Is wearing Indian jewelry cultural appropriation?
No. Buying and wearing expensive and elaborate Indian jewelry is not deemed as appropriation but as an appreciation of the richness of Indian culture.
Most people take time to understand the meanings of different jewelry and gemstones before they invest in Indian jewelry. Though they often wear the jewelry maybe once, the effort put in is the best form of appreciation of the Indian culture and what it offers.
However, Indian jewelry may be deemed appropriated if you wear it to make fun of the culture or as a show of disrespect. It is also cultural appropriation when you make cheap replicas of authentic Indian jewelry for profit.
Pros and cons of wearing Indian jewelry
- Indian jewelry is elaborate, bold, and always leaves an excellent statement
- Exquisite craftsmanship and the jewelry last forever, which is why they make the best family heirlooms.
- They are bold and elegant
- There are jewelry options,
- styles, and designs for everyone
- They offer the best way of appreciating Indian culture.
- The jewelry is costly
- If you buy knock-offs, that doesn’t offer a great way of appreciating what the Indian culture has to offer.
Tips for wearing Indian jewelry for daily life
- Ensure that the jewelry is befitting of the occasion you are dressing up for
- Find simpler, functional pieces for daily wear
- Store them safely at the end of the day
- Don’t be afraid to go all out on special events
If you love and appreciate Indian jewelry, then there is nothing wrong with accessorizing the best kind of jewelry that the Indian culture has to offer.
However, you need to be cautious and ensure that you wear the jewelry correctly for you to fully appreciate the benefits that the jewelry offers.
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Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.