Artist Profiles

Artist:

Dharmendra Soni

Region:

South and Central Asia

Country:

India

Media/General:

Jewelry

Medium of Work:

Kundan gold and silver jewelry with gems and stones

Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2015, 2017, 2018

About:

Hailing from Rajasthan, India, jeweler Dharmendra Soni is a master of kundan-style metal accessories. One of the oldest means of jewelry crafting in the region, the technique involves hammering precious metals into thin sheets, then shaping it into bracelets and other items, often embellished with gemstones.

Soni first learned kundan work as a young boy from his father and uncle, who themselves descended from generations of Rajasthani jewelers. Soni’s jewelry-making starts with the purchase of raw gold and silver, acquired from local sellers. High temperatures are used to melt the metal before shaping it into ingots. Next, ingots are flattened into sheets, which are cut and set with various stones such as rubies. The beauty of kundan work lies in the precise nature of arranging underlying designs, and also in the setting of stones; together, these elements come together to produce a highly refined article of jewelry.

Because of its high degree of intricacy and the rare nature of its accoutrements, Soni’s jewelry is typically reserved for festivals and special occasions like weddings, births, and other ceremonies. It is thought that kundan jewelry-making techniques first reached Rajasthan during the Mughal period, by way of traveling artisans from Delhi. Later, craftsmen from other parts of the country migrated to Rajasthan, making it a hub of kundan. Over the years, rulers and feudal lords gave patronage to the art and it developed into a highly refined artform. Today, kundan is known the world over, with Rajasthan serving as its epicenter.