12.7.15

Navaratna jewelry

Nepali woman wearing navaratna pendant

In Nepal, as well as in India, you can often see women (and sometimes men) wearing different multi-stoned pieces of jewelry: pendants, rings, bangles. If you count the presented gems the number will be nine. And those are not just random choice of stones and not random arrangement of them. This type of jewelry is called navaratna and it has a special meaning and purpose. The nine gems represent sun, moon, five planets and the ascending and descending phases of the moon's cycle (together loosely referred to as nine planets).

Navaratna armlet, 19th century. Gold, enamel, ruby, emerald, sapphire, pearl, aquamarine, grossular garnet, amethyst, coral, citrine, turquoise , rose quartz, and cord. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The idea of connection between the planets and gemstones is believed to have come to India from Mesopotamia where it existed in the third millennium BC. The nine stones included in a jewel are a miniature version of the larger universe in which good and evil forces are held in harmonious balance. They transmit the sun's power through the planets to the wearer and thus grant protection and good fortune. Besides, the number nine is itself considered to be magical (because being the last of the single digits it contains all numbers in one digit but is contained in none of them).

Navaratna ring,  VBJ collection

A navaratna ornament usually consists of the diamond (Venus), pearl (Moon), ruby (Sun), sapphire (Saturn), emerald (Mercury), yellow topaz (Jupiter), coral (Mars), zircon or sometimes hyacinth (the ascending phase of the moon's cycle) and cat's eye (the descending phase of the moon's cycle). The planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are not presented because they were discovered after the Hindu cosmological system was established and do not belong to ancient Hindu astrology or astronomy.
The navaratna gems are used in rings, earrings, pendants, armbands, bangles, bracelets, rosaries, and necklaces but the arrangements of the stones in each ornament follows the cosmological chart. The most common arrangements are a square with three stones on each side and one in the centre ( usually it is the ruby) and a circle. In addition the stones can be arranged as two overlapping squares or a long rectangle. In rosaries nine gemstone beads are repeated in twelve units making a total of 108 beads (the twelve repeats are an allusion of the twelve months of the year).Traditionally each stone in the ornament should be of the same size so that all the planets were represented equally.

Navaratna armband, North India, 19th century. Gold, rubies, sapphire, cat&rsquos eye, yellow sapphire, emerald, diamond, pearl, coral, hessonite, enamel. The National Museum, Delhi  

The nine gems jewelry has been known in Burma (nawarat) and Thailand (noppakao or nopparat), too. In Thailand the yellow sapphire, the garnet and the moonstone can be used instead of yellow topaz, coral and pearl. In the past noppakao ornaments were allowed only for the highest figures of the Thai court: rulers themselves and military leaders.

Navaratna peacock pendant, Nepal

I have a unique piece of Nepalese navaratna jewelry in my personal collection. It is a pendant with a finely made peacock in the middle surrounded with nine stones. This is a rather untypical design for a navaratna jewelry which attracted me in the first place. And delicacy of work of the peacock image won my heart completely.

If you are interested in traditional crafts please check out my new blog Masters of Craft dedicated to arts and crafts from around the world.


9 comments:

  1. Very interesting information. I love traditional items and I'm really drawn to the symbolism behind number 9. I knew that certain numbers are believed to be magical, but I never realized that fact about number 9 being the last of the single digits and containing all the numbers in itself...how fascinating!

    It is indeed lovely to know more about navaratna jewelry. I like how certain stones are associated with certain plants. I love corals so maybe my planet should be Mars:)

    The piece you have in your own personal collection is amazing. The delicate shaping of gold is so lovely...and the nine stones make it even more perfect. What can I say about the peacock design? It is simply superb!

    I adore peacocks. In Split, they live in one acient fotress that today serves as Music Academy and I'm always happy when I see them wandering in the streets (I'm also midly concerned for their safety when they cross the road but so far not a single one was hit by a car)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh that peacock is beautiful! This is so interesting, Olga (as your historical posts always are) - I knew nothing about Navaratna jewellery, and it's been fascinating to learn about it and see such gorgeous pieces. xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a beautiful tradition and mythology and how fascinating the beautiful jewelry it produces. That bit about the number 9 was so interesting. It seems like Jerry Seinfeld thought there was power in that number as well, but I may be remembering wrongly. Great shots!! Happy day to you, dear

    ReplyDelete
  4. Loved this post ... ..
    would be very happy if we could follow back each other in social sites like GFC , G+ , Instagram , Facebook & Twitter ...
    Have already followed you back on GFC !!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I adore the first piece, pleasingly chunky and colourful.I'd wear that in a heartbeat.
    I remember an Indian work colleague explaining about navratna and reading this had brought back happy memories. xxx

    ReplyDelete
  6. What an interesting post, Olga! I love gemstones and took note of their meaning...your pendant is soooo beautiful and delicate! I would have bought myself too!!
    by the way, if you happen to know a site to purchase at a reasonable price those treasures....please, let me know!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your peacock is stunning. How wonderful to own such a unique piece. So delicate and I love the intricate work in the pendant. Always fascinating to have the historical detail so thank you for explaining the meaning of navratna jewellery.

    http://petitesilvervixen.blogspot.co.uk/

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow! Nice blog describing about stone jewelleries and also give some photos. I bought some amber stone online for making a bracelet.Really this is a Best place to get amber inclusive ornaments and jewels. This bracelet gives me a good and attractive look.

    ReplyDelete