The Entrapment of Gods

Rashmi Rajgopal of Saffronart tries figuring out what kept the Gods anchored to earth all along.

Mumbai: It’s that day of the week again when you need to pay a visit to your benefactors, Lord Balaji et al.  But today is different: you have a special wish in mind. Your attire is as attention-grabbing as an S.O.S. alert fired from a sinking ship, but that’s the whole point of all the jewellery. You reach your local temple and notice all the dazzling jewellery anchoring the Gods to Earth. Then, out of nowhere, insecurity collides with full force into you. You stare at your feet, suddenly reminded of your mortality and puny insignificance. You gaze dismally at the idols you came to pray to. Their divine magnificence would any day outdo your attire.  Then you forget why you came to the temple in the first place…

“Wish you looked as good as us, eh? No amount of penance will grant you that,” smirks Lord Balaji with Sridevi (l) and Bhudevi (r). Image Credit:

“Wish you looked as good as us, eh? No amount of penance will grant you that,” smirks Lord Balaji with Sridevi (l) and Bhudevi (r). Image Credit:

Sadly for you (and luckily for the Gods), temple jewellery is made solely to adorn our anthropomorphic idols. Specifications are based on the Gods in question, their roles, the manifestation of their powers in ornamental form etc. When the fad began centuries ago, donors generously flooded temples with customised jewellery for Gods. Temple jewellery varied according to the donor’s social, economic and religious standing (Nigam, M.L., Indian Jewellery, 63). Oh, and secularism scored big time.  Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, the Nizam of Hyderabad (Ibid, 65) and other Muslim rulers of the south also lavished these temples with jewellery.

You’re scratching your head, wondering what all this signifies. Deity jewellery symbolises all the heavenly resplendence our earthly minds cannot possibly fathom. It’s painfully obvious that we can never match up to the Gods, hence the distinction. This is all rad, you say, but bear in mind this feat was no assembly-line production. Which is where dedicated goldsmiths and craftsmen feature. Adhering to a rigid set of requirements calls for a back-up of centuries-old family tradition, skill, patience and monetary investment. If you set out looking for skilled artisans, you’re most likely to find them toiling away in Nagercoil and Malaypore in Tamil Nadu, South India. Ah, but I see you lunge for Doc Brown’s DeLorean. Going back in time, you’d want to check out the special workshops of Mysore King Krishnaraja Wodeyar III.

Why are you specifically referring to South India, you ask me. Not because I’m a South Indian, I tell you, slightly offended. Well-preserved specimens are more probable to be found down south compared to the north, which has been subject to invasion over the years. Speaking of the north, there are extant specimens in the Srinathji temple in Nathdwara, Rajasthan (Krishnan, U. R., & Ramamrutham, B., Indian Jewellery – Dance of the Peacock: Jewellery Traditions of India, 196). Which brings me to part two…

Just when you thought Lord Balaji had the last laugh,  the Enamel and Pearl Srinathji Necklace (Lot 23) shows up. Image Credit:

Just when you thought Lord Balaji had the last laugh,
the Enamel and Pearl Srinathji Necklace (Lot 23) shows up. Image Credit:

The necklace you see here depicts Srinathji, an avatar of Krishna. This is also temple jewellery, and here it becomes crucial to distinguish between the ornamental and the religious. This isn’t for your aesthetic pleasure, oh no. Temple dancers, priests and royalty began wearing temple jewellery metaphorising the overwhelming power I spoke of earlier. Then devotees jumped on the bandwagon. And you’re thinking it would be a good idea to take a cue from all this. What’s the cue? Saffronart.

“You know you want me,” says the Gowrishankaram (lot 82). Image Credit:

“You know you want me,” says the Gowrishankaram (lot 82). Image Credit:

Here’s the perfect example of having entrapped Lord Shiva in gold: the Gowrishankaram pendant (Lot 82). You’re relieved to see him in his calmer self, seated with Parvati on his bull, Nandi. You begin thinking you may want to bid for this piece. That’s not all. The lower compartment is an urn to store vibhuti¸ or sacred ash, to mimic Shiva’s ritual of smearing himself with it (Untracht, O., Traditional Jewelery of India, 39). Yes yes, temple jewellery is metaphor-obsessed. Just go for it.

These pieces feature in the Autumn Auction of Fine Jewels and Silver on October 23-24,2013.

To view the online catalogue, please click here.

A Conversation with Namrata & Dharmesh Kothari of SYNA Jewels

Mogul Black Spinel Short Tassel Pendant with Rubellite

Mogul Black Spinel Short Tassel Pendant with Rubellite

Manjari Sihare of Saffronart in a tête-à-tête with Namrata & Dharmesh Kothari of SYNA Jewels

New York: To mark the holiday season, The Story by Saffronart presents a collection of exquisite Mogul jewelry by renowned US based jewelry design firm SYNA, founded by Namrata & Dharmesh Kothari. Well known for curating private label collections for some of the world’s most esteemed jewelry houses, Namrata and Dharmesh launched their own designer label, SYNA, in 2003. Now in its tenth year, SYNA has made its way into most high-end stores across the United States. The designer couple talk to us about the simple, classic and timeless creations of SYNA, the materials, their use of age-old inlay and carving techniques and more in this exclusive interview.

Q. Please tell us about your brand ‘SYNA’?

SYNA was born in 2003 and excels in exquisitely crafted, luxurious jewelry using colored gemstones.  SYNA means “together” It comes from synergy. The name relates to our desire to partner with people, be it our retailers, our vendors, our jewelers or our employees. We believe people can achieve great things by respecting each other and pooling their talents and resources.

Q. SYNA jewelry stands out for its use of semi-precious gemstones? Please elaborate on your choice of materials and the design philosophy?

Our design philosophy has always been to keep it simple. A piece should have only what is needed, nothing too much, and not less. You will not see pieces from SYNA with too much going on. We’re always always stripping a design to its core. We want to show the heart out instantly, and in it’s purest form, without losing its inherent character.

We believe in using the best of gemstones, which we source from all across the world. We collect roughs of various gemstones and cut the shapes we need as we want. We utilize complex methods to showcase jewelry in its simplest form possible, we never lose the inherent character of the stones, letting the natural beauty of gemstones take center stage. Everything is about achieving the most effective color display and combination. The silhouettes are classic yet striking and can complement a daytime denim or underscore a perfect little black dress. The simplicity of a SYNA piece with a twist of modern elegance is what keeps it timelessly fresh yet versatile.

Q. Do you manufacture SYNA jewelry in the United States? Tell us a little about your sourcing and manufacturing?  

We make our jewelry in the United States using the most skilled jewelers in the industry. We cut and polish our gemstones in India. And our colored stone roughs are sourced from all across the world. We’re always in the search of exotic new materials and gemstones. Being hands on right from sourcing the raw materials to the finished product, there is no compromising at any stage.

Q. Could you talk to us about SYNA’s ‘Mogul Collection’ featured on The Story?


SYNA’s Mother of Pearl Earrings in their signature design, the intricately latticed windows inspired by Mughal architecture

Like I said, our design philosophy has always been to keep it simple. We have taken intricate traditional Mughal shapes and extracted their purest forms and used them in our collections in simple, modern ways. Our signature & symbol is inspired by intricately latticed windows from Mughal palaces, effortlessly merged into a medallion. We proudly call it the Mogul. Our little signature identifies our roots and our design philosophy.

Being the heart of the SYNA brand are the Mogul Drops. The outer shape of the Mogul drops is inspired by the traditional red tilak, a Hindu symbol of victory,

success and good fortune placed on the forehead. We call them “Mogul” drops as they reflect the larger-than-life sizes (some even go to more than a hundred carats each). Our Mogul drops celebrate the culmination of Hindu and Mughal art influences in most architecture in India.


SYNA Mogul Drops

Little antiques, a child’s drawing, architecture, a landscape, door knobs, a memory , a word from a friend on the phone. There are always little things everywhere that gets us excited and thinking, be it during our travels or from our backyard. We love seeing how one inspiration fuses into another all the time.

Q. What are some of the key pieces in this collection and why do they stand out from everything else?

Our large Mogul Drops!! Each large drop is a over a 100 carats, cut to perfection and embellished with 18k yellow gold and diamonds. These can be adorned on vintage leather cords, blackened silver chains and 18k yellow gold chains (and even interchangeably). Each look transforms this simple classic piece into a versatile, chic style. We absolutely love the magic we see in the eyes of our clients when they wear these. The Mogul drops come in various sizes (large, medium and small) and in a lot of different stone species (amethyst, blue topaz, black spinel, rose quartz, blue chalcedony, moon quartz, citrine, lemon quartz, smoky quartz, rock crystal and more) embellished with 18k yellow gold and champagne and black diamonds.

Q. Please share the retail history of SYNA?

SYNA was born in 2003, when we came to the US. It’s been quite a joyride ever since, with some highs and some lows (and some serious bumps!!)  Our first collections were taken by the big names in the industry. It helped us survive the giant leap we took from India then. Today, the SYNA brand is showcased in most high-end retail stores nation-wide including Neiman Marcus & Mitchells family of stores. We choose only the best in the business in each location.

Q. Where do you see SYNA in the next 5-10 years

The last ten years have been our foundation years, long and significant. These years were also some of the most exciting years of our lives. In the next five years, we’ll see a lot of “distribution” magic within SYNA. We’re here since the last ten years, but we’re yet discovering new places. We’re still touring each city, still discovering new store locations, we’re still meeting people, people whom we will work for a life-time. We are growing each day and we’re loving every moment. The next decade will be the most crucial years for Syna, and hopefully they will be path-breaking.

 Q. What kind of buyers does the brand cater to?

Our clients are drawn to our pieces for the purity of color and elegance. They are compelled to touch the stones and get a feeling of spirituality. They love simple, sophisticated styling with an understanding of natural gemstones and appreciate fine quality.  

Q. Your recommendations to build a classic SYNA Collection

Mogul Amethyst dangling drop chain earrings with Rubellite

Mogul Amethyst dangling drop chain earrings with Rubellite

A large or medium Mogul drop on a vintage cord. Some Baubles rings and bracelets. Simple modern Paris cobblestone earrings and a little SYNA bold chakra charm pendant is a good way to start with. From there on, one can build the collection with additional drop colors & sizes (for layering) and some more Baubles colors (to add more combinations to your existing look) and more earring styles. One will be amazed to see how they can use the same piece to create different looks all the time. Usually, we meet up our clients at various events with their existing jewelry (their SYNA pieces and their other pieces) and we create their jewelry looks right away. They always leave the event surprised and awakened on how some colors do so much magic on them than the others. It’s amazing how nature gives us these gems with such potent color, each of them providing us with the opportunity to create beautiful color stories.

Baubles diamond pave stacking rings

Baubles diamond pave stacking rings

‘When Gold Blossoms’ at the Asia Society’s Hong Kong Center

Amit Kapoor of Saffronart on an upcoming exhibit of Indian temple jewelry at the Asia Society’s Hong Kong center

Gold earrings in the Shape of Cobras

Gold earrings in the Shape of Cobras Image courtesy

Hong Kong: Opening this fall at the Asia Society’s newest center in Hong Kong is the exhibition ‘When Gold Blossoms’, featuring Indian jewelry the Susan L. Beningson Collection. As the Asia Society notes, the title of the show “refers to the strong preference for gold in South Indian jewelry…and explores the significance of ornamentation and adornment in Indian culture. The title is also a reference to the nature-inspired designs found on the jewelry, from ear studs each in the form of a lotus to armbands featuring petal and leaf weaving.”

Gold earrings in the Shape of Lotus Flowers

Gold earrings in the Shape of Lotus Flowers.               Image courtesy


A Mango Shaped Nose Ring

A Mango Shaped Nose Ring. Image courtesy

An Enameled Crown set with Diamonds, Rubies, and Emeralds

An Enameled Crown set with Diamonds, Rubies, and Emeralds. Image courtesy

Celebrating the intricate craftsmanship and design sensibility of Indian temple jewelry, this exquisite collection was previously exhibited at the Asia Society Museum in New York in 2004-05, in a show curated by Dr. Molly Emma Aitken. Included in this travelling exhibition are over 150 pieces of jewelry created primarily in South India as jewels for daily wear as well as offerings for deities in various temples. Displayed alongside the pieces will be vintage photographs illustrating the ways in which these jewels were worn and used.

This exhibition is a must visit for serious jewelry enthusiasts.

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