A bicycle chain is hardly an inspirational object, unless used as a weapon –– a lash or whip –– by those who deem it be so because they find a certain delight in the machine-shop kind of violence, ...
A bicycle chain is hardly an inspirational object, unless used as a weapon –– a lash or whip –– by those who deem it be so because they find a certain delight in the machine-shop kind of violence, never mind who it’s unleashed upon. It’s also “a segmented chain composed of tightly joined links arranged such that they can only flex along a single axis of rotation.”
If you turn to page 26 and page 38 of the original M.B.Sirkar catalogue you’ll find, respectively, a cheek and a Projapati necklace that both have chains very similar to the quoted definition of a cycle chain. It seems then –– since it’s a book almost eighty years old –– that jewellers, or at least one jeweller, also found it inspiring and actually created an ornament that replicates the form and design of the cycle chain but chooses to be different in its details and its function, of course.
Our chain differs from the original by being a four-sided affair –– giving it a rounded form and making it supremely flexible –– that uses star-punched ‘S’ pieces instead of the regular chaktis or discs. This makes the har look better (it doesn’t flip over like some flat chains do), feel better, fall better, and behave better (no pulled threads!).
But ours is not an original either. We’ve revived it from a family heirloom : a short necklace with an exquisitely engraved hexagonal clasp that's retained its shape and polish in a way that makes it look as if it were made yesterday.
The process of revival is painful but rewarding. The die for the star-punched ‘S’ pieces was made and rejected four times : either the curvature wasn’t right, or it was too thick in the middle, or too sharp at the two tapered points. We rejoiced with the artisan over tea and galpo when the fifth turned out just right. A bigger celebration is in the offing once things begin to correct themselves. The flat, ribbed die for the inner rings that actually string the chain was more straightforward, though even in that one the barrel effect took time to perfect –– it had to be moulded with a very light touch to get the curved sides right.
Once the two dies were approved, the chain was as good as done, the artisan being an old hand who’s a specialist in tricky hars, having done almost all the challenging chains over the last four decades.
The ornament, as you see it, is an exclusive commission for an esteemed patron who lives in Dubai. She has the eye for classic fine jewellery and each that she has acquired is nothing less than legendary and, for sure, will go onto become treasured heirlooms.
The cycle chain, whatever its antecedents, is a splendid jewel now. And it’s made in a different dimension, literally. The delicacy with which it has to be strung is a combination of dexterity and practice on the part of the artisan and we have just the right hands who’d do justice to an ornament such as this : one that's of simple origin, noble heritage and eminent character. It’s the perfect jewel to end this awful year with : a cycle chain of gold lashing it or whipping it to a close.
Also, in an age of loud and flashy name-upfront branding posing as premium merchandise, this har is a quietly regal, handmade guinea-gold jewel, the only kind we know how to do.
Only those who believe in and feel the need for inconspicuous luxury and unspoken class will realise the nobility of the cycle chain.