Monday, March 08, 2010



As the technology improved and diamond cutting and polishing became an available option, craftsmen decided to use semi-cut or uncut diamonds in the Kundan technique. The semi-polished or uncut diamond was known as the Polki. This essentially had a single large facet acting as the table or the top facing facet. Eventually for the smaller diamonds rose cut was also introduced. Using polki gave the craftsmen the advantage to be able to use not so perfect clarity grade diamonds and cut them according to the design of the final product.

Along with polki, colored stones were also cut to suit the needs of the design. So basically the difference between Kundan and Polki originally was that Kundan used Cabochon or else absolutely raw diamonds whereas Polki used semi-cut/ polished diamonds.

The look of Kundan was like that of glass pieces stuck in pure gold and the design of the final product was dictated by the shape and size of the stone. Polki on the other hand required semi-cut/ polished stones and the stones were cut as per the requirement of the design.

Eventually though in the Kundan technique people started using glass and other colored stones, in the Polki technique, craftsmen continued to use Semi finished diamonds and rose cut diamonds.

The finish of both products was intricate Meenakari or enamel work which was done before the stones were set.

In conclusion, in today’s market place, Kundan jewelry essentially represents imitation stones instead of diamonds set in 22K or purer gold set in the Kundan technique whereas Polki requires the use of real diamonds in semi-finished, brilliant cut, rose cut or as diamond chips along with other precious and semi-precious stones.


With the use of real diamonds in Kundan and Polki, kaarigars/ artisans realized the potential of diamond brilliance that they were missing out on because they had to close the back or bottom of the stones. They realized that a diamond shines beautiful and bright and to maximize this brilliance, they would have to leave the pavilion or the bottom of the diamond open for light penetration.

That was the birth of a new technique of setting semi-cut or uncut or rose cut diamonds. It was called open polki. In open Polki, a simple open bezel or a band of gold was created with a groove to accommodate the girdle of the diamond. A tube of gold was cut into a collar form of band. A groove was etched into the inner edge of the band to fit the diamond exactly. Pieces of these bands were soldered together or attached or linked to the other similarly grooved pieces. The diamond was then placed in the groove and the edges were pressed down upon it. This meant that the diamond was open to light penetration on top and from the bottom.

Once set and finished, open polki pieces sparkled with the fire and brilliance of diamonds. The cost of the jewel is determined by the quality and quantity of the diamonds primarily then by the weight of gold and finally by the labor that went into crafting this jewel. Open polki was especially popular amongst the kings and novelty in the middle states of India. You will find numerous examples of open polki jewelry in collections from the Nizaam of Hyderabad.


Once polki became a popular craft in India, the artisans realized that the brilliance of a diamond in that technique was attributed to the silver foil backing the diamonds. This lead the craftsmen to ponder upon the shine of the ‘white’ in silver that they used for setting the stones. Thus came the introduction of a new technique of setting stones using silver.

· A shallow bucket or bowl of pure gold was created sometimes by doming at other times by soldering

· A small ring of silver was created to top this bucket which required very careful soldering

· The bucket of gold and silver was then filled with lacquer from trees

· The foil was then covered with very fine foil of silver

· The uncut/ semi-finished/ rose cut diamond was then pressed on the foil

· Another very fine foil of silver or silver foil pieces were ‘pressed’ on the edges of the diamond to set it into place

· As a result all one can see from the top of the jewel is diamonds set in white colored metal

· Sometimes a thin line of enamel was etched into grooves created along the diamond setting to create a contrast

Hyderabadi polki is once again becoming a much sought after technique because of several reasons. For one, the white look is very contemporary and goes well with pretty much all dresses and attires. The look of uncut diamonds is very rich and looks elegant and royal. The cost of material is comparatively lower than polki or kundan because of limited use of gold in the technique.

A very similar look of jewelry was introduced in England and became popular under the name of Victorian style of jewelry. Essentially the difference between Hyderabdi polki and Victorian style of jewelry was that the former required the use of silver and gold along with uncut or semi-cut diamonds set into lacquer whereas the latter consisted of rose cut/ semi-cut/ uncut diamonds set directly into silver. The style of design used in both techniques is also very different.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Kundan... the technique revisited

Ages ago when the only technique of diamond polishing that the artisans of Old India knew were to grind one surface and polish it till it shone like mirror, the origin of the Kundan technique happened.

· The word ‘Kundan’ means Pure gold. And that is exactly what this technique of setting stones required. A collet or cup was made out of pure gold sheets.
· The various parts of the jewel were put into place and fixed in the form of necklaces, earrings, bangles etc and soldered into place.
· The reverse would be carved or etched to create a base for the finishing which was Meenakari or enamel work. Real precious and semi-precious stones were ground into fine power and mixed with catalysts to fill into these grooves and ‘fixed’ into place by blowing them till they melted into place as beautiful colors.
· It could be hammered or beaten into shape to fit uncut or cabochon cut diamonds of size. This was filled with lac or lacquer from trees which was hardened just enough to solidify around the base of the gold cup.
· A very thin foil of pure silver was then spread very carefully on the lacquer layer to cover the black completely.
· On this clean shiny bed of silver foil, the cleanest or shiniest surface of the uncut or cabochon cut diamond and precious colored stone was placed so that it would shine as much as a mirror would. Only the best of colors with highest of clarity grade of diamond were used.
· Finally very fine foils of pure gold were gently pressed down into the fine gaps and spaces around the diamond to ‘set’ it in position. This was one of the slowest and painstaking part of the work since based on this the final look of the jewelry product could change dramatically.

The origins of Kundan are unknown but the guesswork of knowledgeable people indicates that this beautiful technique was born in the Northern parts of India. Over a period of time, the shiny mirror like look of Kundan was translated with the use of glass and other colorless stones to cut the cost of the final product. The meenakari was replaced with pen enamel, a technique much easier than the actual blow torch Meena work. Nowadays, Kundan simply means the use of glass, quartz and other non-diamond stones and semi-precious stones in the same technique. The lacquer now involves the use of synthetic glue and finally the gold foils used to ‘press’ down the stones is replaced with gold wire.

The simple reason for all these simple changes is to reduce the cost of making Kundan jewelry by material as well as labor costs.

So when you go out to buy Kundan jewelry you must know that the gold may be 22K and the stones may be glass. What you will be paying for is the design and the look of the product and not so much for the material used or the labor that went into making this product.

Coming up next... Polki- uncut diamonds from the raw