Bead jewellery in India is a 5,000 years old craft and dates back to the time of the Indus Valley Civilization. People of that civilization used to make beads out of gold, silver, copper, clay, ivory and even wood. Traditionally, tribal people used beads not just as jewellery but also for money and as talismans. However, the tribes had unique tastes and desires, and no bead style, type, or color was universally popular.
During the Mughal era, bead necklaces of different shapes and sizes, made from precious and semi-precious stones, became very popular. Later, when the Europeans came to India, the bead workmanship changed. Europeans discovered that beads could be used as a medium of exchange (like currency) as they were durable and historically, beads used to be transported from one place to another in the form of necklaces.
Mughal Bead Jewellery
Even today, among several Indian tribes, the stature of woman is decided through bead work. The more elaborate bead work she makes and wears, the higher her stature. The bead work also lends a sort of hierarchy for a woman in the family structure. The craft tradition is passed through the generations from mothers to daughters. No sketches or graphs are made. The designs are always based on tribal art.
The woman will take the beads from their holder thread and sort them according to their colors. To sort the threads, she will loop them around her toe. Then she will start stringing the beads together, a process that requires concentration and patience. The common practice is to use the same colored thread with the same colored bead. Certain colors are specifically worn to mark certain occasions, e.g. white is used for marriages and green is worn for engagements. Some of the traditional patterns are ‘Phulki’, ‘Hayedi’, ‘Pati’, and ‘Toteni’ which are inspired from natural surroundings.