Breaking ‘Heritage’ One Jewel At A Time

Last year, much to my mother’s horror, I decided to redesign and ‘break’ a few pieces of jewelry that she had given to me when I got married. If you’re from the Indian subcontinent, then you understand the sanctity of a bride’s “wedding jewelry”, where a certain number of ‘sets’ are given to the girl, and they are meant to be preserved for generations. Many women are given jewelry that’s not according to their taste or preferences, but more from the ideology of what can be passed down generations. In light of the above, you can imagine that my decision wasn’t welcomed at all, even though being a jewelry designer for 20 years my approach to redesigning was with a well-thought-out plan.

Over the years, I have redesigned and recycled many of my clients’ pieces. Many have come to me because they are either bored of wearing the same jewelry, or have never worn some of the jewels as the designs didn’t appeal to them. Some women have held onto such pieces for years (and decades), not wanting to mess with the sanctity of wedding jewelry (and their mothers and mothers in law probably). My reasons for putting my jewels under the knife were different. I have a common problem that many women are facing, which is that my ear lobes just can’t handle the weight of a lot of these pieces anymore. Then, of course, there is the fact that I really don’t wear a lot of jewelry. I realise that might sound strange considering my profession is designing and adorning other women in it. So, having lived outside of India for over 18 years, the only time I find myself getting the opportunity to wear somewhat ‘heavy’ jewelry is during Diwali or some other big festival. In fact, there are some pieces that I received on my wedding, which I have never worn.

So, about a year ago, I decided I would start wearing what I owned before I got even older (maybe it had something to do with reaching middle age). I was hesitant about approaching my mother with the idea of redesigning a few pieces, simply because I anticipated her disappointment over my intentions.  ‘Messing’ with traditions is something that’s frowned upon in our culture. Hence, it came as no surprise that my mother was a little distraught with my plans. In order to make her come around to seeing things from my perspective, I had to simply tell her that I’d never be able to wear what I own if I don’t change it from what it is.  After all, what is the point of owning something if it’s never really considered yours, and you are simply keeping it for the next generation who will probably wear it even less?

Societal pressure to preserve customs are deeply embedded in our Indian culture, whether or not they serve any purpose (ask most women, and they will agree that they don’t), or are relevant to our times. Cultural norms dictate how our societies run and govern themselves, and wedding jewelry is just a tiny, tiny part of the whole pie that consists of rules for women. Once married, we are handed an even bigger pie to hold and preserve, not eat. I decided that I actually wanted to eat a portion of my pie before it got too late. I wanted to enjoy the jewelry I own, and not just air it out from the bank locker once a year. In my defence, working in the industry I was at an advantage to use my skills to my benefit. So, I redesigned a few earrings, and split bigger ones into two. I shortened the pair I wore on my wedding day to a more wearable length, in a way so that it can be returned to its former glory if my daughter decides to sacrifice her ears later. I also replaced the hooks with studs and omega backs to support my precious lobes. My wedding necklace went through a makeover as well as I took it apart to convert it from a suffocating choker (claustrophobia alert) to a mid-length neckpiece.

So far, my mum seems to be okay with the small changes that I’ve started off with. Of course, I have plans, big plans to convert more of my ‘locker’ jewels into wearable smaller pieces. The way I see it if heritage and customs don’t serve any purpose or add value to our lives, then changing and altering, or in this case, redesigning them to better suit us and our lives is important. If done with respect and love, without hurting another, bringing about change to better your life and breaking norms is always a good thing.


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Picture Credit : Shikha S. Lamba

31 thoughts on “Breaking ‘Heritage’ One Jewel At A Time”

  1. Lovely article! Having had Shikha redesign my multiple pieces, I must say I broke a few norms too!!
    I now flaunt the ‘wearable’ pieces proudly while Shikha gets a big thanks from me mentally everytime someone compliments the jewellery ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Beautiful article, makes so much of sense Shikha. I love the way you leave us with the words……”if done with love and respect, without hurting anyone…..” such a lovely sentiment and food for thought in so many aspects of our lives !!

    1. Thank you so much Simdi :). As one of my friends wrote above, breaking traditions can lead to breaking hearts but it is still important to do to move on. Moving on carefully and with respect is the key thing 🙂

  3. I love this!! I love how you’ve co-related the practical decision to remodel our jewellery with the emotions of a woman holding onto a pie simply to preserve and pass on to the next gen. your mind amazes me 🙂

  4. Lovely article Shikha. You have chosen such beautiful words to describe something which is so precious and sentimental. The redesigning sounds lovely for pieces which lie dormant .

    1. You put it so beautifully shikha! Very interesting read! And so right my heavy sets just ly in the locker only worn repeatedly for weddings! Great idea shikha!!

      1. Thank you so much for reading Gugdi 🙂 Redesigning some pieces is a good idea especially if you want to wear them.

  5. It is difficult to break with tradition without breaking hearts – others as well as our own – but sometimes it is necessary if we are to move forward, if we are to be kind and true to ourselves. That you have done so speaks volumes to your strength and generosity of spirit. Congratulations 🥳 Please do continue to champion the concept of jewellery recycling – so in tune with the current times and our collective need to reduce, recycle and reuse!

    1. You are so right Maureen, never thought of that really. But it is necessary to move forward as you said 🙂 Thank you so much 🙂

      1. Lovely article Shikha …so well written. Can completely relate to it as I prefer wearing and shuffling my Jewellery instead of keeping it in the locker for years and waiting for a big occasion to wear it. Redesigning is a great idea 👍

        1. THank you so much for reading Prerna 🙂 You know how much that means to me. Redesigning is a great idea is you have jewelry you are not wearing right now.

        2. So beautifully written Shikha, there are so many emotions that are attached with our wedding jewelry but keeping them in lockers and not using them doesn’t make sense. Redesigned and enjoy wearing them and cherishing those memories back.

          1. Thank you so much for reading Sonu 🙂 Sometimes practicality exceeds emotions, but when both can be balanced it is a wonderful thing 🙂

  6. Good job done with redesigning the old jewels to suit your style! I know it comes in the way of preserving culture in its pristine form. But if something sitting in the locker is not going to be used at all I think it is showing lot more respect to the gifts by modifying the designs and retaining the basic materials and adding some of yours.
    .Some may find it disrespectful . For me it is adapting the old to the new age. The old energy just adds so much more value to the new…. Great Shikha!

  7. Lovely article, resonates so much of with me. Redid this with my mom’s jewellery for my wedding and she did with some of stuff she got from her mom in law.

    For us living overseas, its so practical to have wearable pieces.. unless they can be classified as antiques! 🙂

    So I didn’t quite get the ‘before after’ snaps in your photos and was your mom happy with the ‘after?’

    Am sure you must have done aesthetic justice to the pieces!!

  8. Jewelry is all about sentiments..Each piece has a story / legacy .. if done with love and respect ,like you have written , one can connect more than once a year ( if at all) to those beautiful memory each piece has ,be it your wedding,18th birthday, graduation gift.
    Great read shikha. I totally resonate with this.

  9. Good read … I feel can do both .. break up what u can … And especially what u don’t like !!!and keep the stunning statement piece intact .. love traditional
    Pieces toooo much … Little old fashioned that way !!! So this is my way of balancing out and having the best of both worlds ! Lol 😂 love to Shikha keep it up 👍🏻😘💕

    1. Thank you so much Bhabs :). I have kept many pieces as is, but some I’m looking forward to finally wearing as they have become wearable 🙂 You are right, as long as there is a balance it’s good 🙂

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