When you think of a sari, it may come across as a “special-occasions-only” outfit for one and a mere garb to perform the most mundane chores for another. Similarly, natural diamonds too evoke a spectrum of emotions–whether as cherished family heirlooms to be worn once in a lifetime or two, or as delicate accessories used to elevate the T-shirt-and-denims pairing of today. Either way, both icons have evolved over centuries which ultimately carry traditions, secrets and stories to be passed down to the generation that is finding new meanings within them.
Sari, or “strip of cloth” in Sanskrit, finds its earliest traces in the Indus valley civilization where the unstitched cloth covered the lower body artfully, leaving the top bare. This unrestrained form of self expression began to take shape in the following centuries. Other complementing aspects of today’s drape, the blouse and petticoat, came much later with the arrival of Persian and British rulers in the Indian subcontinent. With the influence of Western clothing, ladies of royal families began to personalise their saris by introducing scarves, jackets, capes or new blouse cuts to their ensembles and even customising the length of the pallu. From Maharani Gayatri Devi popularising chiffon saris around the country (her mother, Indira Devi, was believed to be the first to import the special silk fabric from Paris) to Maharani Sita Devi of Baroda, the queen who travelled with hundreds of saris, shoes, furs and her diamond jewellery, the royal patronage unmistakably put the drape on the world map. From here on, it was not long before designers like John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld sent collections in ode to the sari on international runways of leading fashion houses.
One cannot reminisce about the attires from the erstwhile royal courts without swooning over their treasured bejewelled possessions that topped off the look. Take for example, Maharani Sita Devi’s three-tiered diamond necklace consisting of an incomparable 128-carat Star of the South diamond that is still remembered as one of the world’s most iconic designs crafted with natural diamonds ever. Perhaps it was not the added pear-shaped 78-carat English Dresden diamond that made the necklace so immortal, but the simplicity of her pale chiffon sari, quietly embellished with distanced embroidered stripes that perfectly lent itself to the show-stealing piece.
The harmony of sari and diamonds continues to be a fail-safe wardrobe combination wherever you take it. Today the Nivi drape, perhaps the most recognisable sari style in North India, has become a popular choice for formal events. Combined with diamond cocktail jewellery, and you have an impressive ensemble that is sure to stand out. Priyanka Chopra Jonas, a Bollywood star who is known to wear her culture loudly and proudly, proved just the same at this year’s pre-Oscars party. Co-host of the starry evening, she dressed in an understated sheer black sari styled with waterfall earrings, a wrap-around bracelet and cocktail ring, all encrusted with dazzling natural diamonds, proving the versatility of these modern heirlooms.
With the cohort of modern jewellery designers reimagining the past, it wouldn’t be too challenging to recreate the elegant drama–in true Maharani style. Pair your silk drape woven with an intricately-detailed diamond necklace that brings out the bright gold threads of the sari seamlessly. Everyday diamond studs will act as the perfect companion for the evening, and beyond.
To ace the contemporary celebrity-approved look, look no further than dainty chandelier earrings encrusted with curated pear and cushion-cut natural diamonds over a weightless chiffon drape. Finally, for an added touch of nostalgia to the attire, unexpected jewellery designs like a nath, old-world hairpin or bold handcuffs decorated with modern-day diamond settings go a long way.
In a phase of beauty and fashion where less is more, we find ourselves being drawn to pieces that reflect past traditions and foresee the trends to come. Natural diamonds have the power to do just that. In fact, it is not just in the power of one, but two gradually curated wardrobe classics that have memorable lessons in history and an irreplaceable affinity in the future.