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Pratapgarh is a new district of Rajasthan near Chittorgarh & Udaipur is the only place where Thewa art jewellery is manufactured. The Thewa art originated here about 300 years ago. History tells us that Nathu Lal Sonewal was the first goldsmith who initiated this style in 1707. It soon caught the fancy of kings and princes and Maharaja Sumant Singh patronized this art in 1765 and granted a jagir to the family of Nathu Lal Sonewal and conferred the title of Rajsoni on him. The family of Nathu Lal has monopolised this technique ever since. This craft flourished especially during the Victorian times when a number of pieces set in gold were sold to British women who lived here or visited India. These pieces were taken to Europe as souvenirs. Somehow they found their way to the British antique market and the work was recognized by European jewellary historians for its distinction. Some pieces about 250 years old can still be seen in the collection of Queen Elizabeth.
The family of Nathu Lal jealously guarded the secret of manufacturing thewa jewellery. The preserved the secret and did not let it leak even to their daughters and son-in-laws. They did not reveal the detailed technique of thewa art even to researchers, hence inaccuracy in their enamel, but these are absolutely meaningless terms.
In the last century Thewa unit makers prepared elaborate settings in gold wire in the Canetille style, so called after a contemporary European style.
To encourage this exquisite and unique art form the Government of India issued a postage stamp in the year 2004.
To add to its laurels the art also won nine National Awards since 1966. Thewa jewellery has been appreciated around the world for the fine work.
The amount of work, time and skill that goes into handcrafting each marvelous piece of jewellery accounts for a major part of its Price.
The Patterned metal sheet is pure 23 karat gold. To creat the pierced work design, several blank foil sheets somewhat longer than the final result are fixed side by side one after the other on a working surface-a board covered with a layer of lac. The Lac is warmed and the metal is pressed lightly onto it.
Traditional design subjects are carefully drwan on the gold surface with a pointed steel scriber. The designs commonly used can be divided into two main groups-mythological or religious and secular. Popular subjects among the former are Srinathji, a form of Krishna installed at Nathdwara and Radha-Krishna. Ram parivar, Hanuman, Mahadev and the mother goddess are also favourited motifs. The latter include shikargah, a hunting scene depicting animals in jungle foliage, water streams with domestic animals and flowers and birds, etc.
After drwaing the design, pockets within the subject outlines are created with gravers and fine chisels designed by the artisans themselves. The entire background of the design is pierced and through these openings the coloured glass is seen in th result.
Besides jewellery pieces non-jewellery thewa decorated objects include trays, plate, photo frame, wall clock, ashtray, heart shaped pandents, neckless set, bracelet, earrings, tops, bangels, tie-pin, saree-pin (brouch), button-set, betel-nut containers, rose water sprinklers, cigarette boxes, card boxes, flower vases, cuff-links and perfume bottle.
The thewa technique is no longer a family secret. Shri Vishnu Lal Soni, not only mastered this art on his own but also won national and international recognition for his excellent workmanship.
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