Under Mughal patronage the skills of Indian goldsmiths were channelled into the production of not only jewellery but also jewelled objects such as fly whisks and mirror frames, pen cases, boxes and even large-scale pieces of courtly furniture, the most famous of which was the Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan, set with some of the ruler’s most valuable diamonds.
The Mughal appreciation of jewellery was nourished by the availability of gems in the Indian subcontinent. This abundance engendered a highly developed culture of jewellery, marked by sophisticated techniques for working gold, setting jewels, and faceting and carving gems and hardstones.
The word ‘Kundan’ means 'Pure Gold'. And that is exactly what this technique of setting stones required. A collet or cup was made out of pure gold sheets.
· The various parts of the jewel were put into place and fixed in the form of necklaces, earrings, bangles etc and soldered into place.
· The reverse would be carved or etched to create a base for the finishing which was Meenakari or enamel work. Real precious and semi-precious stones were ground into fine power and mixed with catalysts to fill into these grooves and ‘fixed’ into place by blowing them till they melted into place as beautiful colors.
· It could be hammered or beaten into shape to fit uncut or cabochon cut diamonds of size. This was filled with lac or lacquer from trees which was hardened just enough to solidify around the base of the gold cup.
· A very thin foil of pure silver was then spread very carefully on the lacquer layer to cover the black completely.
· On this clean shiny bed of silver foil, the cleanest or shiniest surface of the uncut or cabochon cut diamond and precious colored stone was placed so that it would shine as much as a mirror would. Only the best of colors with highest of clarity grade of diamond were used.
· Finally very fine foils of pure gold were gently pressed down into the fine gaps and spaces around the diamond to ‘set’ it in position. This was one of the slowest and painstaking part of the work since based on this the final look of the jewelry product could change dramatically.
The origins of Kundan are unknown but the guesswork of knowledgeable people indicates that this beautiful technique was born in the Northern parts of