No matter how modern and forward-thinking an Indian bride, her wedding wardrobe is most often a nod to tradition, a chance to revisit her roots and celebrate them on her big day. Saris and lehengas are the most popular choices when it comes to the outfit and uncut diamond jewelry, also known as Polki, is a preferred go-to for bridal bling. So, what exactly is Polki jewelry, and what makes it so popular? Ahead, we decode this centuries-old craft technique and its significance.
What Is Polki?
Polki is a diamond in its most natural form—uncut, unfaceted, and unpolished. The diamond does not undergo several stages of processing to take on its ultimate shape as polished diamonds do.
“These diamonds are used in their natural form without any physical or chemical treatment. They are often retained in their original rough version and cut to follow the original structure of the stone,” explains jeweler Niharika Singh Shekhawat. It is a form of cleaving diamonds with silver or gold foiling on the back to reflect light.
Meet the Expert
Niharika Singh Shekhawat is the creative director of Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur—an Indian fine jewelry brand known for modernizing Polki.
This fine art of craftsmanship requires painstaking handiwork and meticulous skill. It can take several weeks or even months to create one piece. Today, Bikaner in the Indian state of Rajasthan is the most revered hub for Polki must-haves. Polki jewelry dates back approximately 2,500 years. It is believed that Mughal rulers introduced it to the Indian subcontinent, following which, other royal families across the country found a penchant for it, too.
Why Polki Jewelry Is Popular
Today, uncut diamonds or Polki stones are used to create exquisite bridal must-haves—everything from necklaces, earrings, rings, nose rings (nath), headpieces (matha patti or maang tikka), and hand harnesses (hath phool) to cufflinks and buttons for the groom. Of course, the jewelry is not just limited to the soon-to-wed couple. You’ll spot umpteen guests decked in Polki jewels at an Indian wedding. It is just that it tends to be particularly popular with the couple as it allows them to say "I do" to their rich heritage.
“It’s this celebration of nostalgia that lends it an additional special quality. Polki jewelry has a strong link with our culture [which] enjoys the status of wearable art. It’s a source of joy for brides, a way to add a token of the past to their present-day looks,” adds Shekhawat. It helps that the majesty of these designs perfectly complements traditional Indian wear, too. “Polki is crafted in a beautiful tone of gold that pairs beautifully with Indian couture, including the various forms of embellishments typically seen on bridal clothing.”
Polki Jewelry Trends
Timelessness is valued more than trends when it comes to Polki jewelry. Think classic investments that can become part of the bride’s legacy; heirlooms she can eventually pass down.
Uncut diamonds are typically enhanced with multi-hued enamel or meenakari work. They are also juxtaposed with south sea pearls and gemstones for a punch of color. While rubies and emeralds were the go-tos in the past, pastel-hued stones such as Russian emeralds, morganites, amethysts, and even polished diamonds have become modern favorites.
Traditionally, bridal jewelry leaned towards a maximalist sensibility. However, another mindset change has been to add practicality to the purchases. Modern brides aren’t interested in expensive fine jewelry that will barely see the light of day after their nuptials.
“Versatile jewelry is the way forward,” reiterates Shekhawat. “We create detachable and reversible jewelry which can be worn in different ways for various occasions. It’s important that these jewels aren’t simply relegated to a bank vault after the wedding.” So, what are these multi-purpose designs like? Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur’s earrings, for instance, can be easily styled in different ways: as drop hangings, as studs, or as more elaborate pieces with an add-on hair accessory called kanauti. “This way, they can be worn with the bridal sari or lehenga, as well as with a gown for a cocktail party.” Another example is a hath phool, or hand harness, that can also be worn as a bracelet or choker necklace.
Shekhawat adds that jewelers today lay special focus on keeping Polki jewelry lightweight and easy to move around in. “I also see more brides with a ‘less is more’ mentality now. Women want to invest in fine jewelry that is minimal but also stands out. They don’t feel the need to put on a showy display.”
Bridal Polki jewelry can be a sizeable investment, although the price of Polki jewelry varies greatly based on the jeweler, materials, design, and more. Hence, the process of making the right choice can be a daunting one. So where does one begin?
Find a trustworthy jeweler.
“Either trust a jeweler or be one” laughs Shekhawat. Finding a jeweler you can completely trust on the counts of authenticity, value and quality is of utmost importance to her. “You’re investing in an heirloom and should be confident of what you’re buying into.” Think quality over quantity, too. “Don’t just opt for Polkis that are big in size. Rather invest in modest-sized stones but of supreme quality.”
Brides should do their own in-depth research and study the options available before purchasing Polki jewelry.
Choose versatile pieces.
Give thought to how versatile the designs are. Consider whether you will be able to break up your bridal outfit and wear the pieces individually down the line as well. If you’re having your jewelry customized, discuss ways in which you can incorporate reversible, detachable, or multi-purpose elements.
Follow your personal style.
Ultimately your bridal repertoire should reflect who you are and not be swayed by trends. Stay true to your own sensibility when making the final decision. “Polki can be paired and combined in many different ways to showcase your personality. Whether you decide to go minimal or all out, find designs to really match your style.”