In India, jewelry is worn both for its ornamental and symbolic qualities.
Historically, men and women have worn jewelry, literally, from head
to toe, for the sake of its beauty and for its auspicious nature.
It offers protection and promises prosperity. Beauty is believed
to be inherently powerful, but jewelry's influence on a wearer's
fortunes is also understood to lie in the power of its materials.
In early Vedic texts, gold and jewels are deemed sacred. In Indian
tradition, gold purifies while gems channel the energies of the
planets. Almost all Hindu deities appear extensively bejeweled,
and India's religious practices have for millennia included the
gift of gold and jewels to the gods.
the jingle of your ankle bells makes him long to meet you" reads
a line of Indian poetry. To the lover, jewelry enhances the beloved's
forms and movements with its contours and sounds. In society, however,
the semantics of jewelry are paramount. Sectarian symbols and regionally
specific designs often identify a wearer's origins and beliefs.
Gold anklets, double-strand pearls, and turban ornaments were once
the prerogative of rulers. Forehead pendants, bracelets, marriage
necklaces, anklets, and toe rings are still the signs of a married
woman. To be without jewelry is to be outcast in India: no jewelry
is worn by the either the ascetic who renounces society or the widow
whom society rejects.
Susan L. Beningson Collection specializes in jewelry for women and
deities. Pieces date from the first to the twentieth century with
a majority from the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. When
Gold Blossoms, curated by Molly Emma Aitken, is divided into
three realms of experience: Jewelers, Women (The Sixteen Adornments),