mere paas ma hai

I love silver jewellery and Quirksmith’s simple, impactful pieces are an old favourite. This Mothers’ Day I’m honouring my Amma by wearing their Mere Paas Ma Hai earcuff.

In India, silver’s first serious associations with lifestyle were embodied in predictable signposts of royal debauchery- objects like the ittardaan (perfume holder), the paandaan (betel nut box), the gulaabpaash (rose water sprinkler) and ornate silver jewellery, all of which survive to this day. States that lay in the crosscurrents of the old maritime trade still retain European, Persian and Chinese influences in their designs. Then there is our consumption of varq, the micrometre-thin beaten silver foil that tops our mithaais. By one estimate, India converts over 10 tonnes of silver into varq every year. With zari, a conveniently bendy hair-thin wire looped and twisted into pretty embellishments on the hems of skirts and saris, we even found a way to incorporate silver in our textiles. My mother- in- law’s mother, who arrived in India from Sargodha after the Partition and lived and worked in a refugee camp, cut and sold the zari from her best saris for money. Silver may lack the sex appeal of gold, but it remains strongly evocative of sepia- tinted gentility and nostalgia, reminding us of a simpler, sweeter, quieter time.

Today, most silver jewellery in India still draws heavily from and perpetuates a staunchly traditional region- specific aesthetic. On the outskirts of Kolhapur in Maharashtra, the ‘silver city’ of Hupari specialises in paayals, ornate anklets that clink and jangle pleasingly and are roaringly popular across the country. Their motifs of choice speak to their inspirations- the koyna (mango), the pankh (bird’s wing), shankh (conch) and pari (a triangular shape reminiscent of marine corals). Odisha boasts an ancient filigree tradition called tarakasi, so prettily delicate as to be impossible. Jewellery from the erstwhile Rajput kingdoms in Rajasthan, UP, Punjab and Himachal is distinctly different and is influenced, to varying degrees, by the art forms nurtured in Mughal courts. Gaddi jewellery from Himachal- bright blonde silver mixed with blue, red and green enamelwork- all of it incredibly light and easy to wear- is a personal favorite. The pride of my wedding trousseau is a pair of silver kaleerey, commissioned by my grandmother Sushila and crafted to perfection by the talented women in her niece’s village.

Extravagantly shot period films have revived interest in pieces like the chandbaali, the jhumka and the karnphool (for the ears) the borla, the maangtikka and the maathapatti (for the forehead), the sarpech, the passa, the jadanagam and the nizam choti (for the hair), the rani haar, the patta haar, the jadavi lacchha, the guttapusal, the kanti, the kantha-tudar, the navratna, the attigai, the kasu malai, the manga malai, the linga padakka muthu malai, the pathakala haaram, the naulakha and the satlada (for the neck and the torso), the kamarbandh and the chandrahaar (for the waist and the hips), the paizeb and the bichuey (for the feet), the haathphool (for the fingers) and the nath (for the nose). Happily, cheaper silver versions of these abound.

Still, I’ve always missed a simpler, more modern silver ornament, as far removed from the maximalist ethos of its predecessors as the royals were from the grim realities of ordinary people.

Quirksmith’s handcrafted pieces are exactly that- sleek, contemporary, quietly cheeky. They are also excellent conversation starters. I love that.

You can place an order at their website, find this particular ear cuff here, and other cuffs here. They accept payments online and also offer cash-on-delivery service. They are also unfailingly courteous in conversation and handle transactions efficiently and professionally.

Do your bit to support small local businesses by considering small shops like Quirksmith for your jewellery needs.

And now, my generic, mandatory PSA: when dealing with a small business, be mindful of their logistical constraints. Communicate with clarity and politeness. Before you shoot off a rude email or unflattering review, make sure you’ve had a proper conversation- via text or on the phone. If you’re happy with the product, send in a few sincere words of thanks and appreciation. They go a long way in boosting morale.

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