Made in Silver
Traditional silver tribal jewellery remains an integral part of village dress. Each silversmith specializes in a particular tribal jewellery tradition, creating an array of products from bangles to earrings to anklets. The jewellers and the communities where they work have strong relationships since they have lived and worked together for generations.
During the 19th century, Kachchhi silver was made famous by colonialists who featured silverworks in some of the Great Exhibitions in France and England. Kachchh silver is known for its white quality which resists tarnish. Artisans use brightly coloured glass called meena to accentuate traditional designs.
The 2001 Earthquake had a massive impact on Kachchhi silver craft. Houses and the workplaces of silver traders, silversmiths, and the small Kansara artisan community got damaged. Shops, and machineries for jewellery making also got destroyed. Local communities, which form the major market for silver jewellery, were also affected by the disaster. Shops were closed for 18-24 months and artisans were without work. Some turned to wage labour, some changed their trade, and some remained unemployed. Ready stock clearance also became a concern. These factors led to a debilitating cycle of low liquidity, low investment in silver, and low production.
In more recent times, practice of this traditional craft as a means of income generation is fast becoming an unviable option. This is largely attributed to the changing markets and the rising costs of raw materials. The traders who invest in silver and who give contract work are largely exploitative. Traditional silver crafts-persons are spread across different regions of Kachchh catering to specific communities, namely Bhuj, Anjar and Nakhatrana. The total number of practicing traditional silver crafts-persons in Kachchh is estimated to be around 80. Khamir facilitates silver trade by keeping products in their stock, developing relationships with artisans on a one-on-one basis. Recently, the boom in tourist traffic has led to the resurgence of some traditional styles of silve that can be seen in some of the shops in Bhuj.