Indians have great affinity for Gold. Use of gold is also seen in crafts and Rajasthan is no exception. The special art of jewellery making native to Rajasthan has taken world on stride is Thewa. It is an artful fusion of gold in beautiful Mughal pattern on coloured glass. Thewa art hails from a small town of Rajasthan, Pratapgarh near Udaipur and Chittorgarh fathers its origin around 300 years ago. Brilliance of craftsmanship is revealed by fine detailing of the hand crafted piece which takes almost a month to complete.
Thewa got famous globally during Victorian era. An European woman on her visit to India bought some Thewa pieces and carried them to Europe with her as souvenirs from India. European jewellery historians got fascinated with their distinct style and soon became a popular item in antique jewellery market of the country. About 250 years old Thewa art pieces are seen in the collection of Queen Elizabeth.
The credit for developing Thewa artform goes to Nathu Lal ji Soni who kept this art secrete from everyone else. In the year 1707 this art of gold embossing on a sheet of glass was done beautifully for the first time. Resplendent look of art mesmerized royals; hence Raja Savant Singh of Pratapgarh bestowed riches on him and gave the family title of ‘Raj Sonis’. Intricate work emerged prosperous with the passing time and new ideas. The skill is passed on to further generations in the family only. A community following the skill is developed as a result of knowledge sharing amongst family members. The family is recognized by UNESCO and National & State Governments.
Thewa translates to Setting in local language. The word is actually combination of two words, ‘Tharna’ and ‘Vada’ which means to hammer and silver wire respectively. Creation process of this traditional marvel involves high level intricacy. The structure is designing is very elementary. Forceps or Hummaney, cutter or Katya and Tankale are fundamental tools used in it. Simple tools are used efficiently. A 23k gold piece is beaten and rolled out into 40gauge thick sheet. The process of making starts with applying paste of terracotta and chemicals on wooden base with gold sheet. Free hand design is imprinted on it with the help of a chisel. To highlight details of design black paint is spread over sheet and now fine detailing is done with tools. Belgian glass is used as base to mount gold foil on. Treated coloured glass base is framed in several blank foil sheets side by side affixed with a layer of lakh.
On the canvas of glass pattern on 23k gold foil is fused. The motifs are inspired by Mughal Miniature painting. Popular designs are lattice, peacock, flowers, deer in jewellery, Srinathji, Radha-Krishna, Lord Hanuman, Lord Shiva and Ram Parivar on other craft articles whereas hunting scenes and celebrations clad trays, photo frame, wall clock, ashtray, containers, sprinklers, vases and cigarette chambers.
Beads are hanged on trims of jewellery pieces to introduce trendier element in ancient style. With the new age experimentation the art is revamped and use of silver, copper has also emerged as vital option. No matter how intricate or simple the detailing is these jewellery pieces can be worn for festivals, wedding or parties. Rajasthan is known for vibrant colours, rich patterns, and textures. These form core of Thewa jewellery, addition of semi-precious stone beads, pearls, rubies and diamonds enhance beauty and popularity.
Indian ethnic jewellery transcribes lot of sentiments which are flaunted every time you wear it. The art from India has many admirers spread far and wide. Government of India issued a stamp recognizing Thewa in the year 2002. Creating a wonderful art as Thewa is a kind of meditation. It requires intense persistence and focus.