My fascination for Lac/Lakh jewelry started when I was a teenager. I was browsing through an array of colorful bangles in a shop back in India and my eye caught the sight of a gorgeous set of magenta bangles. They were very intricately made with a combination of different shapes of mirrors and rhinestones. The shopkeeper saw the sparkle in my eyes and said, “Madam, they are Lac Churiya(Bangles). They bring good luck”. And he went on to show me scintillating sets of bangles that were very hard to resist. That day I spent my entire monthly allowance, carrying home several boxes of good luck.
What is Lac/Lakh?
Lac or Lacquer is an exotic handcrafted tribal jewelry from Rajasthan India, which is now the fashion rage of urban areas. This traditional craft has been passed down through generations. Therefore the skill of the artist still produces beautiful authentic Lac/Lakh pieces.
Lac is the scarlet resinous secretion from a Lac-producing insect known as Laccifer lacca. They are cultivated to make Lac/Lakh jewelry. These plant-sucking insects colonize branches on host trees and secrete the scarlet resinous pigment. The coated branches are then cut and harvested as sticklac. The harvested sticklac is crushed, sieved and washed to remove impurities. The end product called shellac is further heated to remove more impurities.
A medium sized Lac/Lakh pendent or earring goes through 9 different craftsmen and takes about 10 to 15 hours to get the desired result. Each craftsman has his own skill set and contributes towards the uniqueness of the piece. The main artist does the designing of the jewelry piece and a metal die of the design is made. Then both sides of the design are imprinted on silver foils to make a hollow shell. Depending on the artists design the color of the enamel is etched and fired in a kiln to fuse it. There are 9 different basic enamel colors. Lac is then filled in the hollow silver foil shell to give it strength. The piece is cleaned and polished with gold. Rhinestones, mirrors and glass beads are then pressed into the silver foil depending upon the design. Small pieces are joined together to form a big earring or necklace.
The process of making the Lac/Lakh bangles is slightly different. The inner diameter of the bangle is made up of metal. The size and width of the metal is decided depending on the artists design. Lac is then mixed, kneaded, hammered and heated repeatedly to get the desired consistency. The dough is then rolled and shaped over the metal and fused to add strength to the bangle. Bangles are then embellished with beads, mirrors and rhinestones for that sensual look.
Accessorizing with Lac/Lakh Jewelry
Lac/Lakh is a must have in every jewelry box. The wide range of colors found in Lac/Lakh makes it easier to wear it with a number of outfits. Lac/Lakh earrings blend very well with formal, casual or chic wear. No ethnic wear is complete without bangles. Wear different colored Lac/Lakh bangles to match your outfit. Combine them with gold, silver or metal bangles and add panache to your look. A Lac/Lakh necklace set adds sparkle to any traditional dress.
Over the years different empires like Rajputs and Mughals that ruled Rajasthan have influenced Lac/Lakh jewelry designs. Today Lac/Lakh is made in other parts of India and exported all over the world. This exotic tribal jewelry has inspired jewelry designers to design Lac/Lakh pieces with crystals and cubic zirconium.
– Maria H
Founder/Owner of Duel On Jewel Inc. – fashion jewelry for every occasion.