Minakari is the beautiful traditional art of ornamenting the surface of metal with brilliantly coloured enamels in elaborate and exquisitely detailed patterns featuring animals, birds and plant forms. The word minakari (also spelt meenakari) derives from the Persian word ‘mina’ which refers to the azure colour of heaven.
Minakari earrings by Pallavi Foley www.pallavifoley.com
Invented by Iranian craftsmen, the art of minakari was spread by the Mongols to India, where is quickly became established as a favoured style for jewellery.
The most popular types of minakari art are ‘ek rang khula’ which uses a single enamel colour and ‘panch rangi meena’, which uses light blue, dark blue, white, red and green.
Traditionally gold is used in minakari jewellery as it is better able to hold the enamel and enhances the brightness and beauty of the its colours.
Using a metal stylus, the jeweller engraves intricate designs in the surface gold. These designs are filled with a mixture of metal oxides and powdered glass and the whole piece is then placed in a furnace to harden and fuse the enamel powder. Its only after the firing process that the colours can be seen properly. After cooling, the minakari is gently polished with a mixture of lemon and tamarind.
Kundan meena, which flourished in India during the Mughal reign, is a stunning fusion of the minakari style and kundan jewellery.
Kundan and Polki are both stones. Polki jewellery is made of unfinished natural diamonds. Polki is essentially an uncut diamond that is mined from the earth in a natural way without any enhancement or lab creation.
Kundan work, can refer to setting any stone in pure precious metal i.e. it is a style of jewellery that sets polished but uncut gemstones in 24 karat gold, with gold foils placed around the stones and cold-soldered onto the base to hold them in place. This style of stone setting is thought to have originated in the Rajasthani and Gujurati royal courts.
In kundan meena jewellery, the front of the piece is decorated in the kundan style and the reverse and sides in the meena kari style.
Kundan Meena jewellery by Pallavi Foley
The best places in India to find this exquisitely stunning jewellery are widely considered to be Jaipur and Delhi.
Oh, and one more thing. The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed an unintentional error in Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in India, when the wrong picture was placed above a caption referring to kundan meena jewellery. Hopefully this blog post will have set the record straight on the beautiful art forms of minakari (meenakari) and kundan meena!
Kim Rix, GG (GIA)