Thewa brooch, 19th century, Chased gold over blue glass, set in gilt silver. The Victoria and Albert Museum
Thewa bracelet detail, 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art
The process of making thewa work is detailed, time consuming and intricate, taking up to a month to complete each piece. The design - Hindu mythology or Mughal court scenes, historical events or fauna and flora motifs - is at first punched out of a twenty-four carat very thin gold sheet on a board covered with a layer of lac. The lac is heated and the metal sheet is pressed tightly and firmly into it and peeled off from it after cooling. The gold sheet is laid on top of the glass then and again heated until the metal is fused on to the glass surface. The colours of the glass are traditionally red, green and blue.
Thewa belt buckle, 19th century. source
Thewa ring, late 19th century source
The craft reached its pick during Victorian times. Many traditional theva objects - trays, flower cases, boxes - were sold to British living in or visiting India and were taken to Europe as souvenirs. At the same time brooches, buttons, cuff-links, hairpins and earrings with theva work were specially made for Europeans. Theva units were also set into fans, umbrella handles, perfume bottles, photo frames and it became a status symbol to own such beautiful items. The Indians buyers of theva work preferred belts, necklaces and pendants. Swords, shields, spoons and animal trappings were also decorated with thewa work units.
Thewa brooch, 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Thewa necklace detail, 19th century source
Unfortunately as only a handful of craftsmen are left in this area of work this fine art is slowly dying out.
Related posts: Indian jewelry: tarakashi filigree
Indian jewelry: modern pieces