Weaving silver

Dying Art

Weaving silver

Silver filigree work is practiced in varied parts of India, but Orissa’s silver filigree work is a style unique in itself. This craftsmanship involves the use of pure silver, which is put through a wire drawing machine. In Orissa, both gold and silver are used in filigree work.

A filigree article is a combination of different parts pieced together. The space within the frame is filled with the main ribs of the design, which are usually, stems, leaves, creepers etc. Articles in plain silver are also made in the shape of boxes, trays, bowls, spoons among other items. The perfume containers are a specialty of the place. Silver filigree is primarily made in the surrounding area of the city of Cuttack. The work here is similar to that done in Indonesia. Items manufactured cover a wide range and can be broadly divided into categories. The first being ornaments for women, which include necklaces, brooches, ear pendants, anklets, hair pins, decorative key rings and bangles. A  beautiful nose ring design is the Sampangi, where the ornament is in the shape of a stylised pagoda from which delicately worked chains hang down, each ending in a small pipal leaf. Another peculiar jewel item of this area is the Banki, worn on the forearm. This is formed of stiff chains brought together by adjustable links of flowers.

Ornamental items for men include tie pins and cufflinks. Filigree products are sold in Cuttack at shops lining Nayasarak and Balu Bazaar. It is home to nearly 2,000 artisans. and 350 showrooms where artisans mostly work. Filigree items from Orissa sell predominantly in the domestic market.  But sadly, all is not well with this industry. As wages are meagre for their workmanship, thousands of filigree artists in Orissa are considering opting for other means of livelihood. An artisan barely manages a monthly remuneration between Rs 3000 and Rs 4,500. Other reasons are that the art requires the use of high quality and pure silver as raw material, which is not easily available any more, private traders who supply the silver exploit the workers. The state government has been encouraging cooperative societies for better marketing of the products, but most of them have died down due to lack of funds.

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