For centuries, the subcontinent of India has been a fascinating mystery to the West with its extraordinary and magnificent architecture and rich culture. Numerous travelers have traveled to the mystic land to learn about the country, culture, and spirituality. Amidst glorious temples and monuments, elaborate textiles and food, and lovely people, Parisian high jewelry artist Lydia Courteille found inspiration for her latest collection that embarks on a journey, a song – the Indian Song.
After her elaborate travels through the Silk Route, China, and many other places, the designer has visited India countlessly. Traveling extensively throughout the subcontinent, she has recreated some of the most iconic legends, sculptures, and colors with extraordinary craftsmanship, using her best-known medium of expression – jewelry. Courteille created a 12-piece collection inspired by Indian architecture, festivities, mythology, and animals. “I think it is a beginning of a very, very large collection”, said the designer in an interview.
Inspired by the mythology
Starting the collection is the Khajuraho ring that bears the sculptures on the Khajuraho Temple. The temple is said to be built between 950 to 1050 AD in Madhya Pradesh that features erotic sculptures on its exterior. The designer created a unique ring inspired by the thought that spirituality doesn’t need to be far from bodily pleasures. The explicitly erotic sculptures are craved on sandalwood, recalling the colors of the temple, on the sides of the ring with a deep red color of tourmaline to create a ring that is both simple and complex at the same time.
Another iconic temple is the Madhurai Temple in Tamil Nadu, dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort, the goddess Parvati. This brightly colored temple has a complex of fourteen elaborately sculptured and painted stucco decorated towers. Courteille depicts these towers with colorful cabochon sapphires, rubies, and spinel, representing the stucco figures covering the temple’s facades. The ring also acts as a small temple with the face of the goddess inside it. The ring also represents the snake deity Naga, the ruler of the underworld. The designer has also created the Apsara earrings that depict the celestial singers and dancers in the court of Indra, the king of the gods, using sandalwood.
Inspired by the Architecture
The Taj Mahal is a symbol of love, built by the Moghul emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is believed to have taken its inspiration from Tamerlane’s Gur-e-Amir Madrassah in Samarkand, where the emperor is buried. A mixture of Islamic, Ottoman, Indian and Iranian architectural influences, the white marble structure is an inspiration for many. The designer created a pendant necklace to recreate the Taj Mahal in emeralds and sapphires with a small inside, symbolizing eternal love and affection.
Courteille’s Naga Necklace takes the story of the snake deity Naga from the UNESCO World Heritage Site near Chennai, Mahabalipuram. The massive granite rocks are believed to be the ‘Descent of the Ganges’ and bear stories of the Mahabharata and mythical figures, including the snake deity.
Inspired by the Animals
The Hindu goddess Saraswati is a goddess of wisdom, art, and knowledge. Accompanied by a peacock and swan with a corded instrument of Veena in her hands, the goddess is a symbol of purity and beauty. The designer’s interpretation of the goddess is by the swan and peacock. Apart from being the goddess Vahan (vehicle), the peacock is also the country’s national bird. The influences of its beauty and grace are found across the country, notably in the City Palace of Jaipur, built at the beginning of the 18th century. Courteille has created an enchanting peacock necklace, spreading its feathers using tanzanite, emeralds, yellow sapphires, white diamonds, and tsavorites with an antique glass perfume bottle.
A legend says that Lakshman, the son of Karni Mata, drowned while drinking from a pond and that he and all his male relatives were permitted by Yama, the god of death, to return to the world of the living reincarnated as rats. Thousands of devotees come to the temple to offer milk to the rats. Depicting this extraordinary phenomenon is the Karni Mata ring. The opal in the center is the milk, while the rats are made of sapphires and diamonds.
Inspired by the Culture
India’s rich and diverse culture has been enthralling for many. Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama from Sri Lanka, rescuing his wife, Sita. The designer interprets the festival of lights with a Ganesha ring with many gemstones from emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, and more.
Turra – an ornament worn on the side of a turban handing past the ear is the inspiration for Courteille’s Turra earrings, using spinels, rubies, sapphires, and white diamonds that recall the splendor of the bygone era of Jaipur. Another extraordinary creation is the Hummingbird Turra Ear-pendants that feature Emerald, tsavorite garnet, sapphire, red spinel, turquoise, and 18k black rhodium-plated gold.
| All photos courtesy of Lydia Courteille