Fashioning beauty with beads

Fashioning beauty with beads


Unique: Beadwork jewelry

Be it metal, wood, stone, leather, thread or glass, everything is turned into an extension of their creativity, adding to the richness of the handicraft industry.

Beadwork is an art that dates back to over 5,000 years in India and was even practised by the people of Indus Valley Civilisation. Along with many other amazing artifacts, the unearthing of beads made of gold, copper, clay, ivory and wood from the ruins authenticates the skillfulness of ancient people.

During the Mughal era, many forms of craft were patronised and bead work was one such art that found appreciation and recognition from the royal courts. Jewelry designed with stringed beads made of precious and semi-precious stones was seen as the choice of the affluent class.

Studies show that although local tribesmen were skilled in using wooden, stone and metal beads for making ethnic jewelry, they were introduced to the uniqueness of glass beads by European craftsmen who came to India from East Africa in the late 19th century. It is said that bead work saw more advancement and refinement because of the European influence as they introduced local artisans to transparent and semi-transparent beads. New ideas and inspirations added more versatility to the art that was showcased in the form of decorative pieces, jewelry and embroidery.

In current times, many tribes from various regions across the country have found ways to use beadwork to enhance the beauty of their myriad handicrafts. It is said that in Rajasthan the Mochi tribe is perhaps the first one to utilise beads in embroidery done on dresses, bags and other creations. Beadwork is usually done on bags, door hangings, clothes, belts, jewelry, footware, bed spreads and numerous accessories for household and personal use.

However, beadwork these days is free from the erstwhile European influence and has evolved as an indigenous art displaying the inborn talent of local craftsmen. In fact, India is one of the largest producers of glass beads. Varanasi, Purdilpur and Mathura are known for manufacturing and exporting glass beads of refined quality, whereas Karnal city in the state of Haryana is famous for its silver beads.

The other regions famed for beadwork are Saurashtra and Kutch. The distinctive style of beadwork done in Ferozabad, Agra and Meerut are well renowned across the country.
Not just glass beads, but an array of other kinds of beads — made of plastic, terracotta, ivory, wood, bone and various metals — in various shapes and sizes, are used by artisans to create amazing objects of beauty and style.