A Jewelry Guide for a Pakistani Girl

* For my readers’ precise information, this post has been slightly altered in August 2018

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Hi Guys! Like heirloom sarees (See HERE), gold jewelry is something a girl collects from a very young age. There is something timeless about gold and sarees that consequently make them sensible heirloom pieces for future generations. One of the first pieces of jewelry a Pakistani girl receives is a pair of small gold earrings. From then on, a girl spends her whole life accruing small and large pieces of jewelry for her personal collection. I was no different. My grandfather bought me gold earrings even before I had my ears pierced and since that tender age, I have been either gifted or bought gold jewelry myself. I do wish I had some smaller pieces to wear on a day to day basis.

I am hesitant to encourage that girls only collect jewelry for their dowry. Traditionally, parents save money for their daughters & sons. When it is time to get them married, they gift their daughters and daughter-in-law’s gold (besides paying for the wedding!). Always considered a status symbol to some and a form of currency to others, gold seems like a reasonable investment to make. Today, many independent women invest in pieces that reflect their individuality and not just to conform to tradition. These days, gold jewelry comes in a variety of colors, cuts, and even with precious and semi-precious gems. According to weight, size, and color, gold sets can be light enough to wear at parties & heavy enough for brides to wear at weddings. Some Pakistani women choose to wear light gold studs and gold hoop earrings to work. However, gold is primarily reserved for wedding events.

After a lot of thinking about what my next post should be about, I decided to write some guidelines for the modern Pakistani girl and those interested in learning about them. While some Pakistani girls start collecting early, some choose to wait until their wedding approaches to invest in gold. Either way is fine as long as it suits your current budget needs.

Here is an introduction to gold available in Pakistan (and India) that a Pakistani bride can consider having in her trousseau for her wedding day and decades after:

1. A Complete Set: A complete gold set by Pakistani standards includes earrings, a necklace, and a ring. You can choose to go light and opt out of buying the ring, but you cannot separate the earrings from the necklace. You can experiment with gems and even different ways gold is molded depending on your personal clothing style. Some go for a more modern look for their complete set, but I always try to go for the traditional here. There is nothing wrong with either direction. Since it is an important and expensive investment, go with your personal preference, style, and budget. I would recommend going with pearls and gold because that combination goes with EVERYTHING.

2. A Jhoomer: This is a bit of a splurge but in my opinion cements you as a quintessential Pakistani bride. Jhoomers were a big fashion statement during the Mughal era, but they disappeared for a while only to reemerge in Pakistan in the 1970’s. People started adopting matha pattis (from Arab countries) and teekas (popular during the Mughal period also) to adorn their foreheads also. So which way to go? Comfort is the only thing to consider because jhoomers & matha pattis are large (and expensive!) and if you don’t see yourself wearing them after your wedding, then don’t bother. You can get a simple gold and pearl teeka which complements just about every bridal and formal outfit. However, either of the former two can be beautiful & ornate statement pieces for your wedding.

3. Jhumke with Sahare: I was really smart when I started my personal collection. One of my first gold major gold pieces was a kundan, pearl, and gold set (see complete set above). I wanted something timeless, classic, and traditional (you cannot go wrong with that) and that kundan set met all my checkpoints. The particular set had large jhumke large earrings) with pearl sahare. Sahare are “strings” made of gold or gems that are attached to jhumke. You can pin these sahare in your hair or tuck them in behind your ear. They go with everything from ghararas, lenghas, peshwas, to sarees.

4. Sath Lara: This necklace like the jhoomer is a splurge. I don’t know the roots or history of this particular jewelry, but it was definitely worn during the Mughal era by kings and princes (not women ironically). A sath lara is a long necklace made with seven mini-necklaces, hence the name sath (seven) lara (strands). When I was younger, I didn’t care for it. To me, it was too expensive and looked a bit fussy. But these days, the necklace style has changed and they come in light-weight gems rather than plain heavy gold. If you talk to your dress designer, they can customize their designs to suit this exquisite piece of jewelry. A splurge and not essential in my opinion.

5. Rings: My philosophy about rings have remained the same since I was a teenager–don’t want them. I think rings are completely meaningless unless it’s your engagement and wedding ring, of course. I don’t want to fuss about it so whenever I go gold shopping, I choose not to buy a ring. Statement rings are very fun though. But you certainly don’t need a ring for each gold set you own. It’s a waste of money in my opinion.

6. A Set Of Bangles: Traditionally gold bangles are a symbol of wedded bliss & wedded women wear them on a daily basis. I have a very sentimental story about my gold bangles. None of my grandmothers’ nor my mother’s gold bangles fit my wrists. So in 2005, when we were visiting Sadder, the gold capital of Karachi, I just strolled into a gold shop with no intention to buy anything. My complaint about having no gold bangles was still fresh on my family’s mind here. One of the first pieces I liked was this jhoomer (see above). Aishwarya Rai’s “Kajra Re” was a big hit during this time so I wanted a jhoomer. My aunt and mom were like um… no. They said to get something else. So slightly disappointed yet not ignoring their generosity, I looked through the gold bangles section & fell in love with these modern-looking floral gold bangles. I looked at others in the display case, but nothing compared to the ones I was holding in my hand. And that’s how I came to own my very own (and only!) set of gold bangles.

So above were some pieces you as a bride can invest in. Now comes the tough part– selecting the stone. Below I have listed some most popular stones that complement a variety of outfits. The budget needs to be a factor so negotiate a price point and then purchase wisely.

If you want to make your jewelry colorful and less expensive, consider the following gems as alternates to pure gold:

1. Emerald: The name comes from the old French word ‘esmeralde’, which was derived from the Greek word ‘smaragdos’ meaning ‘green stone’. The combination of green and gold is stunning. If your wedding dress is red, purple, or gold then I recommend this combination.

2. Ruby: In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, ruby is called “ratnaraj”, which translates as “king of precious stones”. Ancient Sanskrit texts, the Bible, and other historical writings refer to ruby as a precious gem, indicating the rich history and abiding appreciation of ruby gemstone. Ruby and gold is another winning combination. If your bridal or formal dress is green, blue, or shades of pink wear this stone.

3. Sapphire: The name sapphire comes from the Persian word safir, derived from the Greek word for blue. Sapphire comes in a variety of colors, but the most well-known is blue. Blue and gold is a stunning combination and can be worn for any occasion. There is a Hindu myth in Pakistani culture that Sapphire suits the energy of only certain people. I am not sure if I believe in the myth, but it is something to be aware of. Sapphire and gold go with basically any color; Green, red, white, light blue, you name it.

4. Pearls:  The name “pearl” is said to have originated from the Middle English word “perle”, which in turn came from the Latin word “perna” meaning “leg”. Pearl and gold is a classic combination. Because of the white color, pearls can complement any tone or color. Your first gold purchase should definitely be a pearl and gold set.

5. Diamonds: Needless to say diamonds don’t come cheap. To be honest, besides having them on my engagement ring, I am not fascinated by diamonds or have the desire of owning a lot of them. The only time I would think about getting a diamond set is if I had the money and my bridal dress had silver work on it. But other things considered large amounts of diamonds have not been mined ethically. Other stones do not have this issue mostly, but diamonds almost do. Because of that, I am happy with my gold. If you are on the market for some diamonds, please shop at reputable shops and ask for certificates saying they are not “blood diamonds”. Thank you.

There are other semi-precious stones that are fun to own. Look into the following stones. They come in a variety of colors and cuts:

1. Amethyst

2. Moonstone/Cat’s Eye

3. Topaz

4. Tourmaline

5. Peridot

I know many people go out of their way to buy gold because they think it will make them happy. However, realize gold and gemstones have healing properties and should be seen as such instead of means of just acquiring greed. Check out this wonderful book by a friend of mine (See HERE) and you will learn how important these stones are for your personal energy. However the real happiness should come from inside and if you cannot afford sets of gold and gemstones, understand there are wonderful alternatives available in Pakistan markets.