Jewellery and Filigree

Country: Bangladesh

Jewellery products include rings, earrings, lockets, necklaces, chains, bracelets, bangles, nose pins, jhumkas, and tikli.  Delicate filigree work is used to make atardan (otto-pot), pandan (betel holder), phuldan (flower vase), kajaldan (collyrium case), golap-pash (rose water sprinkler), brooch, and replicas of Ahsan Manzil and Husaini Dalan.  

In South Asia, jewellery dates back to 4000-3000 BC. The art of filigree flourished and was finest during the Mughal period (1608-1763).  After the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 it again slowly revived under the commercial influence of Cuttack, Orissa, India.

Dhaka was famous for its jewellery and filigree work. Beads made of semi-precious stones have been found at Wari-Bateswar, northeast of Dhaka. Stone beads have also been excavated at Mahastangarh. Traditional silver ornaments such as makri earring or heavy tribal jewellery are made in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In Cox’s Bazar, ivory or bone ornaments are popular.

Gold is the basic material to make jewellery. Silver is used both for jewellery and filigree work.  Copper, plastic, steel, white metal are also used. Pink pearls received attention of jewellers.  Shankha, or conch shell, is used to make armlets and bracelets. Nowadays terracotta and seeds are also used to make jewellery.

The methods for making jewellery include garit (moulding), chila (stripping), engraving, mina, setting, polishing, ball making, joint making, and final finishing. Casting, chasing, engraving, repoussing, embossing, etching, incising and inlaying are used in filigree work. A variety of fine wires or threads usually of gold or silver are used in filigree work.

The Mughals were fond of using stones in jewellery. During the British rule English designs influenced Indian jewellery.  In mid 1960s, pink pearls began to be used. Jewellers have adapted their filigree technique so that less amount of gold is needed. Some fine jewellery belonging to the nawabs of Dhaka shows the influence of the Mughals as well as of European designs.                                                                                                             

Further reading

Ahmed, P. 2014. “Art and Crafts. Banglapedia”, The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh.  Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka.

Glassie, H. 1997. Art and Life in Bangladesh. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Haque, Z. 1984. Gahana Jewellery of Bangladesh. BSCIC, Dhaka.

Hunter, W.W. 1977. A Statistical Account of Bengal. T Rubner and Co., London.

Mahmud, F. 2003. Metalwork of Bangladesh: a study in material folk culture. Bangla Academy, Dhaka.

Mahmud, F., Banu, Z.M. and Motahar, H.A. 2016. The Art of Filigree in Dhaka: A Rich Heritage of Bangladesh (ed. F. Mahmud). Bangladesh National Museum, Dhaka. (accepted for publication).

Majumdar, R.C. 1943. History of Bengal, Vol. I. University of Dacca, Dacca.

Mohsin, K.M. “Commercial and industrial aspects of Dhaka in the Eighteenth Century”. in: Dhaka Past and Future (ed: Sharif Uddin Ahmed). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka.

Zaman, N. 2014. “Ornaments”. Banglapedia, The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh.  Asiatic Society of Bangaladesh, Dhaka