Two decades ago, in Singapore, at the arcade of the Raffles Hotel, there used to be a beauty store called Escentials which leant heavily on fragrances and less on makeup and skincare. While browsing t...
Two decades ago, in Singapore, at the arcade of the Raffles Hotel, there used to be a beauty store called Escentials which leant heavily on fragrances and less on makeup and skincare. While browsing their eclectic collection of perfumes (one of several bought — Eau d’Oolong by an unknown Japanese house unimaginatively called Imaginez Creations — still remains in the wood cabinet in its original box with one-third not yet used) a bowl of coffee beans was proffered from time to time while sprayed test strips were continuously sniffed. Apparently that recalibrates our sense of smell and helps in discerning the various notes of fragrances or else olfactory fatigue prevents proper selection. It’s a bit of a myth, of course, but a pleasant one at that. You can perfectly well go on testing perfumes without diminishing returns on your sense of smell.
The coffee beans are an act. Today’s jewel is, too. We’ve been doing naksha and wire-work and katai and Bidri and combinations of these for quite some time now. Perhaps you’re suffering an overdose of fine jewels with stories to tell and need to smell something simple, strong and of a single note to reset your senses to the more decorative stuff, as far as bespoke guinea-gold handmade jewellery is concerned, especially those of Bengali karigari. Here’s the perfect antidote to everything exquisite you’ve been privy to for the last few months. If anything, it should clear your mind of the fabulous, fantastic and farraginous so that a calm descends upon it and, like an adroit weaver confronting an empty loom, you start threading the yarn of your imagination afresh, willing to receive anew all the beauty of the world around you and within you.
The ornament is a reversible pati har. A broad (three lines thick) sabudana-bordered kamal-chain, its links covered with scale-like mihi-chaktis, forms an extended ‘U’ of matinee length that could as well be cut to a princess or standard necklace size if you so desire. The edging on the outside is of outsize polished orbs that each sport a tin-karai finial. The long earrings are a cut section of the same pati with even larger triplet orbs along the bottom edge but, just to balance things, a ball-trefoil crown to top them.
The detail to regard is in the polish. The side hidden is plain buffed chain — no discs or chaktis garb its joints. What you see in the photograph is the chhela or fine-faceted face of the ornament. The whole thing dazzles, and the tiny discs become kinetic in good light, sparkling and spinning like those ever-turning dots in a Bridget Riley painting. Yet, this isn't Op-art ; it's jewel-craft. There's no illusion of anything — what you see is what you see. But the point is : do you see what needs to remain unseen? — that all-important differentiator in polish which causes this monastic jewel to assume a marvellousness quite surprising and induces it to become a ritzy frame within which to hold your story.
Look deeply ; enlarge the picture if you will ; notice the silvery rhodium finish on some of the discs that form an unbroken chevron pattern. It's a cleverly disguised detail, but the one most crucial to the 'performance' of this, on the face of it, rather Plain Jane jewel. Don't be deceived. It isn't. Much like a Riley canvas, there's something intriguing going on in it. And it does complement whatever glorious apparel (viz. sarees, gowns, turtle-necks) you decide to wear it with, just as much as it defines your presence.
Still, we must get back to where we started the conversation around this necklace-earring set. It remains for you to decide whether you consider this that bowl of coffee beans meant to neutralize your senses so that you can get back to truly appreciating all the 'high' jewellery, or feel it's an altogether new fragrance in itself which, although based on a solitary note, works wonders with its fulgurant subtlety.
The truest arbiter of beauty, even of your own, must finally be you.