History will hold the Mughal Empire (1526 -1857) as one of India’s most powerful and influential dynasties that spanned an incredible three centuries-long rule over the subcontinent in a fusion of culture, decadent ornamentation, and spectacular art and architecture like the Taj Mahal.
Of the many treasures from this era, it is perhaps the jewelry that piques this particular editor’s fascination the most. Steeped in symbolism and the awe-inspiring craftsmanship of Jaipur’s jewelers and some of the world’s most spectacular diamonds, gemstones, and pearls, Mughal jewelry is like a language all its own in the art of adornment.
The tradition of Indian wedding jewelry is rich with suites of diamonds that generously grace the bride from head (how about a maang tikka that runs along your center hair part onto the forehead?) to toe (diamond anklets anyone?), and everywhere in between. And while it may not exactly be subtle, it is uniquely suited to the bride wedded to the embrace of jewels that transcend time and trend.
When it comes to Mughal jewelry, there’s a lot to love. The exquisite warmth of 22 and 24 karat gold, the dramatic use of Polki diamonds captured in the artistically, imperfect style of Jadau. This traditional Indian style of jewelry making embeds the clear, smooth, raw diamonds and hand-carved cabochon gemstones in gold, framing each stone in place. Jadau is done completely by hand which gives each piece a uniquely organic look. And if that weren’t enough, the underside of these pieces displays an intricate design of multi-colored enamel work (Meenakari) or delicate diamond-encrusted filigree so that every millimeter is a feast for the eyes.
The Polki diamond originated with the Mughals. Unlike the traditional faceted, sparkling stones of Western jewelers, this diamond shines from within. Its natural, graceful light, unimpeded by facets, reveals another way of admiring our favorite gemstone. But no one is impervious to the charms of sparkling rose cut diamonds, briolettes, and old mine diamonds. It’s easy to fall under the spell when they’re set in the deliciously ornamental Mughal style surrounded by colorful enamel work, high-karat gold, and a dizzying array of gemstones. These faceted styles bridge the gap between antique and modern and fit effortlessly into the Mughal vocabulary while also leaning into classic wedding day jewels and engagement rings.
The world’s most famous jewelers like Cartier, Boucheron, and Chopard were not only inspired by the extraordinary jewelers of India but collaborated on royal-bound pieces mixing the biggest and best diamonds and gemstones of South Asia with settings and classic designs of the West for a progressive hybrid of creativity and beauty. This multi-cultural exchange of ideas in the early 20th century resulted in an unparalleled fertile period of jewelry creation.
MUNNU THE GEM PALACE
You can’t consider Mughal jewelry without thinking of Munnu The Gem Palace. Known as the Crown Jewelers of India, the Kasliwal family holds its pride of place firmly in the history and tradition of high jewelry handcraft from the onset of the Mughal period. Today, Munnu The Gem Palace remains a true treasure trove of riches in the heart of Jaipur, the Pink City of India. Luckily for us, Munnu also occupies a ruby red suite in a classic townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. A visit to their NYC digs is a surprisingly relaxed affair as you are regaled with trays of jaw-dropping pieces dripping in diamonds and gemstones worthy of a modern Maharajah and Maharani power couple.
“Jewelry is not for one generation, but for many generations to come. We come and go, but the jewelry remains forever.” – Siddharth Kasliwal, Munnu The Gem Palace
India’s most famous fashion and bridal designer, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, ushers in a unique bohemian sensibility to the tradition of Mughal jewelry design. Polki and rose cut diamonds are splashed liberally across his painterly collages of gemstones, pearls, and precious beads that drip lusciously in a cascade of hues resembling the richly textured fabrics indicative of his signature women’s collections. Gentle ombres of cognac, jet, and gold, with flashes of soft pink with turquoise and jade, can be worn in both his jewelry and clothing in equal measure.
“Mughal influences run deep, be it in the zardozi embroideries or the Jadau craftsmanship seen across our jewelry. Its power lies in its refined craftsmanship, historical significance, and timeless grandeur. I think this is what pairs perfectly with modern weddings. For me, the Deconstructed Maharani necklace with the printed velvet sash reinterprets a heritage style preserving age-old crafts, but with the modernity of design and perspective.” – Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Founder & Designer, Sabyasachi.
Fashion legend Diana Vreeland lived by her edict, “the eye has to travel.” For designer and co-founder Bibiana Dykema of Modern Moghul, there is no truer sentiment. A business trip to India turned this architect into jeweler fired up by her discovery of Mughal jewelry. This newfound passion gave birth to her collection of accessible fine jewels inspired by this traditional style crisscrossed with the practicality of wearing and collecting precious jewelry today. Dykema’s pieces tick all the right boxes with classic Indian hand craftsmanship, stunning polki diamonds, rose cut diamonds, and rich, vibrant gemstones set in bold shapes with classic filigree backs. Her collection is filled with future heirloom pieces perfect for the daring bride who wants to wow her wedding.
“The use of Mughal stones, particularly diamonds, has a long Indian wedding tradition. Today, our modern bridal jewelry is designed to hint at the traditional with a whimsical twist that is both current and playful.” – Bibiana Dykema, Designer, Modern Moghul.
From the non-traditional engagement ring to a golden Jadau style choker layered in polki diamonds, Mughal jewelry marries an unrivaled heritage that carries the weight of hundreds of years of tradition and dedication to the craft. It is a great love affair of beauty made real in the form of wearable art for the ages.