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Who are you?

Part of the “Stories of Self-Expression” series by Mohini

This question has perpetual existence. From stoics, philosophers, scientists to commoners, all have come face-to-face with this seemingly simple yet incredibly puzzling question. But the incommodiousness of this inquisition hasn’t discouraged the seekers—no matter the age. And the search will probably never end because this inquiry leads us to understand another critical question—where do we belong? That is, what is our personal identity and social identity?

Over the centuries, we've used different means to differentiate and unite ourselves from and with others. Be it by using abstract means such as shared myth like origin stories of the first human. A group of Tasmanian aborigines believed a god called Moinee created the first man. The Hebrew tribes of the Middle East believed a single powerful god created Adam. These stories became their shared identity. Similarly, religions, ethnicities, countries, classes, and languages created a common and distinct identity.

We expressed these identities in different ways by using peculiar fashion like in ancient Rome, women wore a palla (a shawl draped over her head), and the men wore a Toga (a semi-circular cloth) over a tunic, and these styles were a mark of Roman citizenship. Similarly, the Indian techniques of printing, embroidery, dyeing are all unique to India. These choices were further segregated in religion—Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and other faiths all having a unique dressing style that expressed their identity. Like all these materials of expression, one widely used and potent means was jewellery.

1,00,000-years-old beads made from Nassarius shells are considered the oldest known jewellery. For so long, we have had a special place for jewellery in our life because it presents us with an opportunity to communicate our identity to others. The making style, materials all vary between cultures. However, two things remain the same—the long life of jewellery and the value it holds in culture and families and their usage as a means of self-expression.

Jewellery was worn among the higher classes as a sign of status and social recognition. In ancient Rome, only people of a certain rank were allowed to wear rings, and similar rules were there in other regions. And if there were no laws regarding the jewellery, the inherent quality of the jewellery worn by royal families distinguished them from the local public. Some popular jewellery owned by royal families includes La Peregrina Pearl of Queen Mary, Princess Diana’s Sapphire ring, Diamond Sarpech of Maharaja Duleep Singh, Patiala ruby choker of Maharani of Patiala, and many others. These became the expression of royalty.

But because the jewellery was used as an expression of royalty doesn't mean it remained limited to that expression. As time passed, people from various class divisions used it to express their unique identities. Obviously, at each level and depending on the region, the material used to make jewellery differed. Like the jewellery worn by different tribes such as thick red coral bead necklaces and thin fluted glass stems arranged on a fine thread worn by the tribal people of Khasi, Jaintia, and Garo; the bright heavy jewellery made with shells, metal wires, coins, beads, and strings worn by the Banjara tribes of Rajasthan; the filigree motif earrings, Kardhanis (waistbands), and Chuda bangles worn by Santhal tribes of Jharkhand are just a few examples. These pieces of jewellery became a potent expression of their unique identities.

These are all broad strokes of identity which tell us where we belong. But with the advent of the modern world, the focus on the individual began to increase, and with that came individual expressions. Now, people are using the same means to express not only their collective identity but also their individual identity—bold, unconventional, elegant, minimal, traditional, and so on.

The focus has shifted from similar designs to unique and personal designs that express the person's individualism. Not only are women wearing jewellery but also men to express their distinct personality and taste—all in an attempt to convey a personal message, who I am. And while we may never be fully aware of who we are because there is no simple answer and the answer we may find right now can change tomorrow, jewellery remains one of the best ways to express whatever fragments we know.

Mohini believes in this potential of jewellery to be that voice that tells our story most authentically. That’s why we say, “Cherish the beauty within,” because we don’t believe in the defined parameters of beauty. Instead, we urge you to look within and find your personal style—whatever that is, you’ll find jewellery to express it at Mohini.

Note: This blog is part of the "Stories of self-expression" series, where we talk about the different ways jewellery has facilitated our journey to expressing ourselves. In the next blog, we'll discuss how jewellery has become a part of our culture and how tradition influences jewellery and vice-versa.


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