Published: 28 Aug 2017

Goldsmiths – The unsung artists

Shilpi gazed with amazement at the necklace, earrings and bangles that adorned her cousin’s neck, ears and hands. She had never thought that jewellery could add to the charm of a person to this extent. As the bride to be, her cousin looked stunning; Shilpi exclaimed, ‘Wow!”. To this, her granny who was sitting right next to her said, “Yes, she looks beautiful, doesn’t she?” Shilpi innocently replied, “No! I said WOW for the jewellery, not her.” Her granny laughed out heartily and said, “How innocent you are my child. But to answer your ‘WOW’ let me first ask you. Do you know what jewellery that is?” Shilpi shook her head and that’s when she got her first introduction to the world of sonars (goldsmiths) and Read about various forms, trends and designs of gold jewellery.

The granny said that the jewellery her cousin was wearing, was made from identifying purity of gold by their forefather. Slightly curious, but still confused, Shilpi nodded her head and kept on gazing at her cousin. Her granny knew she would want to know more about it. At that time, little did she know that one day, Shilpi will mould this fascination into her career by taking up a jewellery designing course.

Today, 20 years later, Shilpi is talking to her granny and is explaining the journey of Sonar. The beginning point of the gold that her granny and all the ladies of the family so adore. Shilpi told her Granny about Manoj, the sonar who works for their jewellery design firm and gives shape to all her designs. Shilpi described each step of Manoj’s journey from his small remote village to the fast-paced urban India.

During his childhood, Manoj’s father took him to the gold ornamentation workshop. His father had acquired the jewellery making skills from his father, thus, it was passed on from one generation to the next. At this atelier, Manoj acquired the skills of filing, soldering, sawing, forging, casting, and polishing the gold from his father. The sonar’s work has eased considerably with the advent of technology. However, Manoj’s grandfather had to bend over deep into the forged jewellery for giving it the perfect precision while designing. Manoj now has varied magnifying glasses, a double intensity LED light over all his equipment that helps him get the intricate designs with precision.

Manoj commonly uses the following tools to craft his artwork:

  • Gauges
  • Finger sizers
  • Goldsmith anvils, hammers, dapping, blocks, doming, bench pins, drills, buffing and

Manoj has moved to the city, where the technology available has made his work easier than before. However, his father and thousands of other sonars still toil in the villages using traditional methods. This one day with Manoj made Shilpi realize how much hard work goes into handcrafting these ornaments. Their artwork brings out the enigmatic beauty in each piece, and makes people like her cousin look stunning on their special days.