The Mongol dynasty or more commonly referred to as the Mughal dynasty ruled most of northern India from the early 16th century to the mid 18th century, after which it continued to exist as a considerably reduced entity until the mid 19th century. The Mughal empire was notable for its more than two centuries of effective rule over much of India and the seven generations of rulers that maintained excellent administrative organisation under which the art and culture highly flourished. A further distinction was the attempt of the Mughals, who were Muslims, to integrate Hindus and Muslims into a united Indian state, something that is considered lacking even in today’s day and age.
A deeper look at the history of Indian jewelry reveals that its use was infinitely more complicated than just mere decoration. During the Mughal regime, jewelry was used as a social signifier or an indicator of social status and was also used as an insurance policy that could be pawned off in times of need. Interestingly jewelry also had medical purposes, for example toe rings, gold waist belts and different types of bracelets were created based on the position of certain acupressure points.
The arrival of the Mughal emperors in the 16th century marked the so called Golden Age for Indian Jewelry as they brought with them the technical knowledge required for gem-setting. Thus, precious metals and gems became a way to indicate social status. This created a huge demand for jewelry and everyone began acquiring as much as possible thus diluting the social status of the already upper class. In order to protect their social status, they passed various Sumptuary Laws or decrees that limited the wearing of jewelry to the ruling classes, thus cementing jewelry’s high status in the Indian society. The effects of such institutions have been passed down generations and can still be seen today as the common Indian still associates jewelry with a higher social status and thus it is still given a lot of importance. In today’s day and age, Indians still use every opportunity to showcase their jewelry or wealth as an indicator of their social status and therefore jewelry plays a subtle but very important role in the everyday lives of the common Indian.