Ganjam - Rediscovering Heritage

A 125-year old Indian jewellery brand, Ganjam opens our eyes to the country's rich heritage, which they have been preserving and promoting continuously...

By: Karishma Parkash & Soumya Jain

Posted on: March 3, 2013

Ganjam heritage jewelry

Old Indian dynasties and Maharajas knew what opulent jewellery means. Creations made under their reign are celebrated till today. Indian jewellery is not just putting together of gems and metals. Each curve and wave has a meaning and the designs have immense symbolism hidden under them.

Each part of India has a different design, art and craft of making jewellery. One of the most celebrated and awed at is Carnatic jewellery, or jewellery inspired by South Indian temple architecture. Temple jewellery, as it is also known, conforms primarily to the great scriptures: Shilpa Shastra, Brihat Samhita and Jyotish Shastra.

Ganjam is probably the only brand keeping this traditional form of jewellery making alive. One of the rare Indian jewellery brands representing ancient traditions, Ganjam recently held its eighth annual exhibition showcasing South Indian heritage jewellery, and on the occasion we caught up with Mr Kumar Ganjam, Director at the jewellery brand.

Showcase of tradition
Ganjam heritage Carnatic jewelryThe archival jewellery showcased at the exhibition spans close to five centuries of south Indian history and craft. While some were hand created by Ganjam, some are pieces acquired by the Ganjam family over the years from other private collections. “These unique jewels are priceless as it is impossible to replicate not only the making but also the jewels used. They now act as inspiration for our famed Heritage Collection of jewellery that is handcrafted by Ganjam at our century old workshop,” said Mr Ganjam. Not only was the exhibition a way to celebrate the re-launch of Ganjam’s Mumbai boutique at the Heritage Wing of the Taj Mahal Mumbai, but also an attempt to promote the ancient craft of Carnatic jewellery.

Ganjam, in existence since 1889, were the official jewelers for the Mysore royal family. After years of service, the then king gifted a Ganda Baruda, the symbol of the Mysore family, a pearl encrusted one of kind neckpiece, to the Ganjam family. “This piece, on display as part of the Archival Exhibition, is the only one of its kind in existence,” says Mr Ganjam proudly. But this is not the only creation which made people stand in their tracks. The Vanki armlet shows two studded, poised peacocks, which will surely make your heart skip a beat with its complex yet simple design. A Benaras cut diamond and ruby rosette form the central focus of the armband. A diamond pendant with dangling pearls is suspended from the central rosette. A beautifully crafted bead-head set with carved emeralds forms the screw type clasp for the piece. The rosette and the pendant form the other part of the cleverly crafted and concealed clasp.

The Makarakanti is true opulence on display. A ceremonial necklace, this piece is made in the traditional South Indian closed setting style of ‘Kundala Velai’. The main gemstone used in this style of jewellery is cabochon Burmese rubies with highlights of rose or Benaras cut diamonds and emeralds which could be cut or cabochon. The word ‘Makara’ stands for a mythological sea monster combining the body of crocodile with other animals, while ‘Kanti’ means necklace. In this piece, two peacocks again make an appearance to frame the central motif. The tail of the peacock follows the form of the makara. The lower central pendant motif is surrounded by further motifs depicting foliage. Hollow gold beads hang from the lower pendant. Nine floral elements on each side of the pendant and one bird based element on either side form the links that support the central ‘Padakam’ (pendant). Technically, these elements are held together by two flat, handmade chains called sharadus, which run at the back.

Ganjam heritage Carnatic jewelryChanging times
Even though the backbone of Ganjam is its history and traditional craft, and will always remain so, Ganjam has moved ahead with times without compromising on its basic foundation. Mr Ganjam agrees that the brand has widened its horizons over the years to include other inspirations apart from South Indian temples. “Our contemporary collections take inspiration from elements of nature and the world around us. Jewellery is art and must be constantly evolving while still staying true to its inspiration,” he says. Mr Ganjam further adds that their century old workshop in Bangalore houses the original workshop along with a state-of-the-art design studio, stone setting department, quality control, etc. “It is important to preserve the DNA of the brand while also adopting new ideas,” he expands.

You don’t need us to tell you that the price of gold and gemstones has increased manifold over the past few years, and is continuing to increase at a breakneck speed. Ganjam, thus notices, a shift in consumer preferences, which shows in their purchasing habits. He explains, “The price of gold and gemstones, on an average, has seen an inflation of 8-20 per cent year on year in the last three decades or so. In the recent times (2-3 years), it is on the higher end. On the other hand, the new generation of gemstones has started seeing consumer passion as well. The purchase of jewellery is thus becoming more specific to suit specific aspirations.” On the other side, the craftsmanship and designing of Ganjam jewellery is progressively getting refined, and with Heritage craftsmanship, the intangible value of the sustenance of craft itself has taken the critical focus.

Ganjam has a national retail footprint in the three cities of Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. However, it is also one of the few Indian brands that has created a following internationally too. We were, therefore, quite happy to hear that Mr Ganjam is keen to have a store in Europe to start with, and then expand internationally gradually.

Unique design, detailed craftsmanship and an allegiance to heritage – Ganjam has made sure that it always includes these three ingredients of luxury in its creations. A force to reckon with in the Indian luxury industry, the brand knows how to make its work speak for itself…

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