Traditional Ornament-making Industry

Last Updated on: January 11, 2022

The state of Assam rich in the tradition of manufacturing gold jewellery dates back to several centuries. The jewellery is typically hand-made, and the designs mostly depict floral and fauna treasures of the region. Traditional designs of Assamese jewellery are simple but decorated with vibrant red gemstone, ruby or mina. Black, red and green colours on gold jewellery are looking very gorgeous and these colours also dominate the traditional dresses of tribes and communities of the northeastern states. Assamese ornaments are one of the most important parts of Assamese culture. It is generally made of pure gold. From the historical point of view, this gold was locally available flowing down with the water of several Himalayan rivers, of which Subansiri is the most important. In fact, a particular tribe of people, the “Sonowal Kachari” were engaged only for gold washing in these rivers. Gold washing and manufacture of jewellery were two important ancient industries in Assam and gold were abundantly found in the sands of different rivers of the state. During the rule of Ahom kings, gold washing was done on an elaborate scale and the state derived considerable income from it. In manufacturing Assamese jewellery large quantity of gold was used in making ornaments. F.C Hanniker in his monograph on gold and silver wares of Assam mentioned that Assamese jewellery is by no means without merit. No doubt it is very crude and precious stones are used and very well-cut. But it is quaint and characteristics. The Assamese goldsmiths are not satisfied with 14 carats or even 18-carat gold and many of the Assamese ornaments have occupied a precious position among the good collection of Indian wares. The ornaments are very much beautiful to look at and are a very prestigious part of Assamese culture. These were used by both Assamese men and women during the Ahom period.

A Craftsman making traditional Assamese ornament at Ranthali, Nagaon.

About Ranthali 

Ranthali village is famous for “Assamese jewellery business not only in the state but also other parts of the country. This village is located approximate 8 km away from Nagaon town near Pakhimoria development block under Dewdhar Panchayat. Ranthali village is located between 920 40/ E longitude and 260 16/ N latitude The “Ranthali” village of Nagaon district is a thickly populated village. According to 2001 census, 1946 people are living in this village which is increased to 2032 people in the 2011 census. Almost 90 percent of the total families are engaged in the Assamese Jewellery business. Ranthali is a very small village of Nagaon district which is about 8 km away from the main centre of Nagaon town. It is one of the important places in Assam where different types of colourful Assamese jewellery are made. Jewellery making is the main occupation of the villagers of this particular village of Nagaon district.

Display of some Traditional Assamese Ornaments crafted at Ranthali, Nagaon.

Methods Of Preparation Of Assamese Jewellery

or preparing Assamese jewellery craftsmen are generally found to use the manual method. These are very prestigious traditional ornaments of Assamese people and are mainly prepared by the “Sonari” group of people of the Assamese community. In the formation of these ornaments gold and silver, both metals are generally used. In the case of a gold metal, 99% pure gold (24 carets) is generally used. For using pure gold these ornaments are generally known as “Kecha Sonar Gahanna” or pat Sonar Gahanna. Here in the preparation process gold is generally through the help of machines to smother up. After smoothing the gold, it is cut into the required sizes and packed with white paper. After packing the pieces of gold, they are hit by nature and other two different types of small instruments used by the goldsmith. Then the pieces of smooth and fine plates of gold will be ready to use in the preparation of ornaments. In the case of silver metal, three different types of elements are mainly prepared by silver, such as “Tar”, „vissile‟, and „pat‟ which are the most important elements for the formation of Assamese jewellery. Without these three important elements, Assamese jewellery cannot be made. From these three elements of silver, two must be used in the formation of ornaments. For joining these three elements to form a particular design, „pine‟ is generally used. „Pine‟ is a strong quality of paste that is formed from the mixture of silver, tam and bronze. To enhance the quality and beauty of these Assamese jewellery items, here special colour is used which is generally known as „Mina‟. Besides these, some different types of coloured stones are also used here. After pasting or using the stone and „Mina‟ through „Nuoni‟ and Kanchani, pure gold is generally used outside the „stone‟ or „Mina‟. Some different types of colourful small size balls beads which are generally known as „Moni‟ are also used in Assamese jewellery items. According to the size, colour and quality of the balls, they are known as „Bakharua moni‟, „Balmoni‟, Desimoni‟ etc. Here a very small plastic thread is used to stitch the balls and prepare the necklace.

Different types of instruments used in the preparation of the Assamese jewellery:

Haturi, Bhati, Niary, Daish, Phali ,Karsani, Kati ,Nuoni ,Lap ,Thina, Bakhor ,Lamp of candle, Flame of fire

Making of Assamese Traditional Ornaments at Ranthali