Dhokra + Kantha + Weaving + Leather + Printing + Jewelry + sasha skills

sasha craft >> Jewelry

Jewelry making in Orissa has been an old craft and very little has changed in the tools and techniques they use. The crafts people here are versatile and are able to work with precious and non-precious metals with equal ease. Design interventions have introduced new elements like glass beads from Benaras and cotton thread in many colours.


Karmul is a village in Orissa and it is home to many jewelry craftsmen. They traditionally made silver and gold jewelry for people in the neighboring villages as well as for tribal people in the district. But over the last forty years competition from machine made jewelry proved too much for them, and they lost their customers steadily. Design intervention and new urban markets in India and abroad have revived the craft in a new form.

There are two distinct sets of crafts persons working in Karmul. One is the women's groups who fashion jewelry, and the other is the men's groups who make the parts for the jewelry, like beads, pendants etc. They use the simplest of tools, and no electrically operated ones. Their main tools are their eyes and hands.

Process of Tribal Jewelry

Tribal jewelry is today made mostly with non-precious metals like copper and brass, combined with glass beads and cotton thread. The traditional techniques of making, combined with contemporary design have made these pieces unique and expressive.

Tools for fashioning jewelry - monkey pliers, (katturi (wire cutter), scissors, needles, Rubber based glue, metal pipe to blow air into the fire, tongs (chimuta) used to hold pieces of burning coal as well as other things, bowl of water, asbestos sheets used to place the metal pieces for welding, small glass sheet holding the soldering material which is made of pure silver leaf (nisha jhal, khar or tanganu), water, Kerosene lamp for the fire (Dibbir), iron stove (Umaei), blower (Bhathi)

The anvil - Dhar made from railway lines, is bought from kabadi walas, or scrap iron sellers. Usually this anvil lasts a lifetime. All sheet metal is cut by hand using the cutter and weighed. All plates and wire to be used are heated first in the iron stove. This makes them pliable.

Beads are made by cutting wire into small lengths and beating the wire around a metal rod. Larger beads are beaten in different angles to make facets. This is a very old design in beads originally made in gold and is called sorisiya or kanthi, khuddo sorisiya, biddho kanti (which have scored lines on them), nali or pipes. Balls are called mundi ball, bottam (button) ball, ghunguroo ball. Springs are made by winding wire around a metal rod and are used as beads.

All plates and wire to be used are heated first in the iron stove. This makes them pliable.

Here the craftsman is arranging half balls on a sheet of asbestos before welding. The placements are carefully done, though no jig is used and it is entirely visual. After arranging, small strips of pure silver and a binder are placed on all the joints. If the work is very fine, a bed of wet clay is made on the asbestos and the parts are placed with tweezers on the mud, to fix them properly.

A gas-fuelled welding gun machine with regulator is used for joining pieces of metal. Welding is normally done using a mouth operated tube and kerosene lamp. A gas-fuelled welding machine is used for large numbers.

Finishing: an emery stone is used to finish the sharp edges of sheet metal parts. All pieces, after finishing are cleaned with nitric acid, rheetha phal (soap nut) and lime. A coarse wire brush is used for this. If the metal is to be given a black color, it is coated with a nitrogen compound and burnt it with the blowtorch.

When fashioning jewelry, cotton thread is wound round the big toe of the foot and held stretched by the hand, to get the right length. On the side where the loop is formed, macramé is done to form one side of the fastening. After this, the necklace or bracelet is made. The other end is usually finished with a ball that will go inside the loop to fasten the piece. The joint is finished with the thread that is wound around it several times.

Basic material for jewelry making - wire, sheet in copper, brass and white metal, silver for welding, earring hooks, small beads. Fashioning - Embroidery, crochet thread (cotton azzo free), glass beads, stone, terra-cotta beads, dhokra lockets and beads, hand beaten beads, different types and sizes of balls and leafs, pipes

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