The Jewels Of A Southern Indian Princess
Megha Ramaswamy, PhD
Tuesday, Apr 13,2010
Okay. So, Megha Ramaswamy isn't recognized officially as royalty, nor are we sure that she has any "royal blood". But, after you hear about her family jewelry collection, you'll agree that it's fit for a queen (or a storybook)! See this modern princess' reflections on her family's jewelry collection below....
If I had to list all the benefits of nearing 30 years of age, I’d definitely list “growing into my mom’s Indian jewelry.”
I am a Southern girl in my roots - raised in Mississippi and descended from South India. My memory of trips to India as a child every few years always included my mom traveling to multiple family jewelers to "plan" her latest design.
Her first set of jewels that she paid for by herself (as a married lady, with her own money from working her first real job in the U. S.) was a beautiful rose-shaped coral and gold ensemble. Eight dime-sized corals carved into the shapes of roses are connected by a delicate swirling rod of gold, with small pearls accenting the curves of the necklace. This is paired with a matching bracelet and ring. The ring, itself, easily runs about an inch up my mother’s finger.
This jewelry is traditional by no means. It’s neither Southern by her Indian mom’s standards nor by her American daughter’s standards. My mother went on to purchase many sets of unique jewelry pieces over the years - one or two on each trip to India. Not only did she collect unique pieces, but she’d frequently take them back to India, have them melted down, and recast as something else. This, she claims, she picked up from her mother. As she got more settled in the US, her passion for gold coin jewelry, ruby beads, colored enamel and gold, or whatever her latest idea was, turned into her true passion for diamonds.
At age 50, my mother perfected the art of wearing a little black wool dress and about thirty diamonds on her neck and ring finger (each!). Her diamonds come in all shapes - bunched together at the base of her neck in the shape of a sun, a cobra, sea horse, or tiny little diamonds dancing on a golden rod around her neck.
I, on the other hand, am a traditional minimalist in my jewelry tastes. Every day since I was 16 years old I have worn my grandmother’s flower-shaped diamond earrings. A small cluster of diamonds that make up the shape of a flower are a tell-tale sign of Southern Indian heritage, and even particular cultural and religious leanings. I treasure these. The only other jewelry I wear is a tiny little watch and my wedding ring.
As a child and even into my 20s I never really understood the appeal of collecting so many “sets” of jewelry. I still don’t completely understand my mom’s attraction for these sets, to the point of arguing with her about her purchases. Never argue with a lady about her jewelry purchases.
Before my wedding, my mother presented me with a diamond jewelry set. The family jeweler formed a small gold rod to fit right at the base of the neck. Twenty small diamonds were placed like little teardrops on the rod, so as to give the impression of diamonds having landed directly on the neck. The necklace came with a matching bracelet and a ring with a row of four diamonds.
I threw a fit when I saw this jewelry – mostly because I was trying to wrestle back some control over my wedding ensemble. I told her it wasn’t my style, that it was a waste of money, and that I’d rather have some earrings. But all those arguments did was hurt my mother. Ultimately I was just arguing with a lady about her jewelry purchases – no better than a bossy man.
Now, almost a decade later, I appreciate the beauty of that necklace – its subtlety and delicateness. I appreciate how at almost 30 years of age, I pair that necklace with a little black wool dress – just like my mother, and truly the [Southern] belle of the ball. I’ve hosted parties in this jewelry, given lectures to colleagues and students, and of course I ended up getting married in that jewelry.
As I have grown older, I’ve started to take pride in all these treasures – taking out a new piece every couple of weeks to “try out” – a little ruby ring from the 1970s, my parent’s emerald and diamond engagement rings, a ring that my aunt had made for me with a rough cut jewel her father-in-law took home as a prize for success in a hunting match sponsored by an Indian prince! However, the real treasure I’ve discovered, is my mother.
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