Nepal is well known center for its ancient artistic excellence. Be its architecture, craft work, metal work or jewelry, Nepal’s reputation is still on the top. Nepali silver jewelry is one best example of Nepalese artisan skills. Dated back to 6th century, the then citizens of Kathmandu valley discovered this unique technique which still is adorned by the world. The Shakya and Sunar (silversmith) family has been carrying out the legacy of designing the authentic silver jewelry which have a great demand in west world.
Nepali silver jewelry is true 925 sterling silver (92.5% pure silver) made jewelry. The 925 silver are purest silver with the luster and beauty that doesn’t fade away for over long time period. This silver are incorporated with turquoise, quartz, Lapis and many other gems stone to give a appealing look and aesthetic value as well. The 925 silver are just not known for chemical purity but also the spiritual connection too. The silver ornaments are encrypted with spiritual belief and themes which functions as an optimistic thread that binds the positive beads of thoughts together when wore.
Among the two major categories of Nepali handicraft—textile and non-textile—Nepal jewelry (mainly silver jewelry) falls under the second along with metal, stone and wood crafts, paper products, leather goods, incense, paubha paintings (thangka), bone and horn products, ceramics, bead items and bamboo products. The textile category includes pashmina and woolen, felt, silk, cotton, dhaka, hemp and allo (nettle fibre) products. Nepali silver jewelry accounted for 13.25% of Nepali handicraft exports last year behind pashmina (17.01%) and woolen goods (16.18%) and ahead of metal craft (13.14%) and felt products (12. 65%).
Scintillating Silver jewelry
Patan, or Lalitpur (“City of the Arts”) one of Kathmandu Valley’s three historical cities, is reputed for its numerous skilled craftsmen including highly accomplished silversmiths. Shops selling silver jewelry abound all over the city, such shops on the whole being hereditary family businesses where skills have been handed down from fathers to sons. Some of the most highly regarded Nepali silversmiths belong to the Shakya and Bajracharya clans.
Nepal’s jewelry has found a place in showrooms around the globe. For instance, rows of curio shops in the side streets in Copenhagen’s famous pedestrian street (Stroget) display a variety of Nepali jewelry. Silver jewelry with snake designs and those embedded with garnet and turquoise stones are specially popular. Although the United States is the biggest importer of Nepali jewelry, much potential still remains to be tapped. In fact as a whole, Nepali silver jewelry exports have had no real growth through the years, exports reaching Rs. 353 million in 2002/2003, Rs. 360 million in 2005/2006, Rs. 345.69 million in 2007/2008 and last year, Rs. 368.72 million.
Whether they are rings, bracelets, necklaces or brooches, Nepali jewelry are generally embellished with a variety of semi-precious stones including topaz, amethyst, garnet, sapphire, turquoise, ruby, aquamarine, quartz, etc. To get an idea about Nepal jewelry prices, an exquisitely designed silver ring with a smoky topaz setting will cost around 15000 Nepali rupees (around 185 US dollars). Once you set your eyes on such beautiful works of art, the thought would probably come to mind that, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. If there is any more doubt about the “art” aspect, then all one has to do is pick up a silver necklace with a beautifully made pendant, to see that indeed, it could not be made but by an accomplished artist.
Suman Ratna Dhakhwa
Suman Ratna Dhakhwa has specialized in the jewelry business since 1998 with his own brand, ‘Valhalla’ in Nepal. Born in a Newar-Buddhist family, he was influenced by the decorative arts and the craftsmanship that surrounded him as he grew up. At the age of 27, he was introduced to a German goldsmith and was invited to visit his workshop. It was there that he learned the technique of ‘Mokumegane,’ an ancient Japanese sword smith technique. After returning to Nepal, he spent years studying and experimenting the craft. He now works exclusively with this technique creating patterns out of precious metals and crafting them into jewelry.
Creation of such works requires highly skilled hands and involves the making of intricate patterns. During the process, thousands of tiny sterling silver wires are arranged on a back-plate and soldered with extreme precision and great care. Fine hand carving results in elaborate detail. Dragons, peacocks and motifs like ‘Om’ and the eight Auspicious Symbols are traditional designs that are often used. All in all, Nepal has a proud history in the art of making jewelry and this is why most tourists who visit the country make it a point to pick up an exquisite piece of Nepal jewelry as a much favored souvenir. .
A representative list of Nepali jewelry manufacturers, exporters and retailers in Lalitpur:
Shakya Handicraft Pvt. Ltd., Hakha Tole, Lalitpur
A Four Trade Concern, Hakha Tole, Lalitpur
Adi Buddha Handicraft, Nagbahal, Lalitpur
Adventure Art Gallery Traders, Mangal Bazar, Lalitpur
Ajaya Muni Bajracharya, Gabahal, Lalitpur
Amir Bajracharya, Gabahal, Lalitpur
Amit Shakya, Hakha Tole, Lalitpur
Mahaguthi, Kupondole, Lalitpur
Amrit Ratna Shakya, Ilanani, Lalitpur
Amulya Devi Shakya, Ikhachhen, Lalitpur
Ananda Ratna Dhakhwa, Akibahal, Lalitpur
Guna Jewelry, Jawalakhel, Lalitpur
Anuj Shakya, Nagbahal, Lalitpur
Araniko Crafts, Chakupat, Lalitpur
Arts of Wisdom Craft, Jawalakhel, Lalitpur
Ashok Shakya, Nyakhachowk, Lalitpur
Aspen Handicraft P. Ltd., Gwarko, Lalitpur
Babu Raja Bajracharya, Gabahal, Lalitpur
Babu Kaji Shakya, Nyadal, Lalitpur
Yagendra Shakya, Bhulkhu, Lalitpur
Yala Handicraft, Chakupat, Lalitpur
Swayambhu Ratna Shakya, Pulchowk, Lalitpur
A representative list of Nepali jewelry manufactures exporters and retailers in Kathmandu:
Trident Craft Pvt. Ltd., Thamel, Kathmandu
Urmila Tamrakar, Marutole, Kathmandu
Bagmati Hastakala Udyog, Tahachal, Kathmandu
Zenith Export & Import, Thamel, Kathmandu
Women’s Expressions, Bishnu, Kathmandu
Ayush Enterprises, Keltole, Kathmandu
Ashtha Sun Chadhi Pashal, Kalanki, Kathmandu
Aquamarine Enterprises, Chikanmugal, Kathmandu
Annapurna Gem’s, Thamel, Kathmandu
Shakya Muni Lokman & Sons, Pyukha, Kathmandu
Ebisu Jewellers Centre Pvt. Ltd., Durbar Marg, Kathmandu
Pancha Buddha Jewelers, Naghal, Kathmandu
Aakash Bhairav Jewelers, Indra Chowk, Kathmandu
Himalayan Jewels, Hotel Radisson, Lazimpat, Kathmandu
Himalayan Gems & Minerals, Thamel, Sanchayakosh Building, Kathmandu
Kuber Jewelers, New Road, Kathmandu
Gahana Griha, New Road, Kathmandu
Royal Jewelers, New Road, Kathmandu
Shree Bhairab Jewelry, New Road, Kathmandu
R.K. Jewelers, Bishal Bazaar Shop No 11, Kathmandu
Note: The above list only a small number of Nepali Jewelry outlets. For more addresses please visit: http://nepalhandicraft.org.np/index.php
Laxman Basnet owns three Nepali jewelry shops in Kathmandu and Lalitpur. According to Sushma Ghartimagar, the manager of Amethyst in Lalitpur, Nepali jewelry consists mostly of silverwork, which in some cases, are gold plated. Her shop is in an area inhabited by many expatriates who often drop by to purchase a piece of Nepali jewelry or to give an order according to certain specifications. According to Sushma, most silver jewelry have semi-precious stones in them. Prices generally begin from 4000 Rupees (50 US Dollars) onwards. A beautiful grey pearl and crystal necklace costs just 9000 Rupees (about 112 US Dollars).
Stones generally used in Nepali jewelry are topaz, sapphire, amethyst, aquamarine, black star, garnet, tourmaline, lapis lazuli, crystal, ruby, turquoise, coral, etc. An attractive aspect of this small shop is the way the beautiful Nepali jewelry have been displayed on large crystal rocks. Sushma says, “Some tourists want to buy the rocks. We sell them for around 20000 Rupees (250 US Dollars) each.” She hastens to add however, “But it is really the exquisite Nepali jewelry that they come looking for.”
Amethyst, Near Summit Hotel, Kupondole, Lalitpur, Ph: 977-1-5525545
Icon, Near Summit Hotel, Kupondole, Lalitpur, Ph: 977-1-5553283
Jewelry Shop, Hotel Vaishali, Thamel, Kathmandu