Indian jewelry: tarakashi filigree

Brooch with floral motif and butterfly, Kerala, India, c. 1853. Silver filigree. Victoria and Albert Museum

I believe everybody knows what filigree is. This kind of jewelry is created in many countries and each has its own distinctive features. In India it is called by Persian word tarakashi. In this delicate and time-consuming style of jewelry is made mostly from gold or silver wire here. It is amusing how relatively small amount of metal can be transformed into a surprisingly long length of wire. For example, one once (28.35 g) of gold can be drawn into a single hair-thin wire 35 miles (21.8 km) long. And this makes the filigree attractive to both jewelers and customers as a minimal amount of precious metal is needed to create beautiful pieces with a lacy appearance.

Bracelet with flower butterflies and snakes. India, c.1853 silver filigree. Victoria and Albert Museum

 Gold Filigree Wedding Ring, 1980s Sarara Vintage

Among the important centres of filigree in India are Cuttack in Orissa and Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh. In both centres the craft is very old. It has reached a peak of exellence by the mid-nineteenth century. Fine examples were shown and admired at the London Great Exhibition of 1851. Some of the best pieces survive in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Pair of filigree bracelets, Cuttack, Orissa, 19th c. Victoria and Albert Museum

Cuttack has long been famous for its very fine "spider web" work and the rose flower is the main element in designs here with most patterns being built up around flowers. One rose takes about three hours to make. Each year about 5000 kg of silver are consumed by filigree industry in Cuttack. Gold filigree is only made by order.

Silver filigree bangles from Karimnagar. source

Filigree work from Karimnagar was first patronized by the ruling Nizam of Hyderabad and his family. Craftsmen produced fanciful, high quality luxurious objects and toys for ceremonial and social occasions. Here creepers and leaves predominate in design.

Gold necklace mainly in filigree work with stamped units made for the Great Exhibition, London, 1851, Kerala. Victoria and Albert Museum 

Silver filigree necklace.  source

All the form of jewelry are produced in filigree: bangles, brooches, bracelets, earrings, hair pins, necklaces, pendants, chains, rings and buttons.


  1. So pretty and delicate. The choker at the end is my favourite, its just my style. x

  2. Wow - that is just beautiful! So intricate and delicate.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  3. Such beautiful pieces. I love the fact that apart from the gold ring, these are all antique items yet they look completely timeless and wearable today. I really like the intricacy of filigree jewellery. xxx

  4. Very beautiful pieces. I'm familiar a little bit with this technique. When I took a jewelry class, we studies it and I made a pendant using the technique. Very difficult -- I ruined my piece 3 times before I got it right. Very delicate work. Thank you for your post. Always learning something new on your blog!

  5. How wonderful! Great artist must have created these jewelry. My favorite is the braclet with the snake and the flower butterflies.
    Sabine xxx

  6. Looking at beautiful things makes me happy!! Thank you for a lovely post. XXOO

  7. loved the neckpieces
    keep posting dear
    p.s new post up on my blog

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  9. Great post! Thank you!

    Leonor www.ethnicadornment.com

  10. wow this is really absolutely beautiful. no longer just jewelry but true art!!!

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  12. I adore filigree, and these pieces are simply breathtaking! Thank you for educating us, Olga! I have a little box in my collection which really reminds me some of the pieces you showed here. I wonder if this box is Indian...

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