Of all the things you might bring back from a trip to India – carpets, fabric, art, carvings, spices – there are few treasures more likely to draw admiring glances than traditional bridal jewellery. Perhaps the easiest items to wear back at home are the earrings: these chandelier-style jewels have been worn for thousands of years by brides on their wedding day, and carry enormous cultural significance – they were thought to protect the wearer from evil spirits that might enter the body through the ears.
And just as you’ll notice how the colours and styles of the saris worn by local Indian women change not just from state to state but from town to town, so too does the jewellery of each region. Depending on where you venture on your holiday, you might see heavy plain gold bell-like jhumka (big earrings), or the brightly coloured enamelled Meenakari jhumka from Rajasthan, which are decorated with peacocks, floral or paisley design work. Jhumkas from Hyderabad are famously adorned with pearls, while Kashmiri earrings feature a long chain that runs up behind the ear, to be pinned into a hair bun.
Prices vary hugely depending on the extravagance of the gems used, from a couple of hundred pounds to many thousands, but whether they’re top-end vintage pieces adorned with diamonds and precious stones, or the most basic, simple kind available from a local supplier, discovering the wealth of different styles on offer is a memory in itself.
Pictured is a particularly beautiful pair of contemporary earrings from Amrapali, a jewellers who began in the small lanes of Jaipur’s Chameliwala (silver) district and is now the go-to supplier of Hollywood and Bollywood stars. They have over 35 boutiques in India, and employ over 2,000 people in Jaipur alone. The author of the Love India guides Fiona Caulfield believes that “the most exciting thing about Amrapali is the passion of Rajiv Arora the founder who is really fanatical about Indian jewellery”. Her top tip is that “potential buyers of gold and diamonds should visit the company’s flagship store and take an appointment with one of the Arora family, either Tarang or his sister Tanvi”. And of course, for those who can’t make it to the subcontinent right away, Amrapali thankfully has a Knightsbridge boutique as well.