Today when we talk about fashion, jewellery is one of the first that people like to accessorize themselves with and flaunt it along with any look they want to carry. The fashion industry is very fast-moving, and we have to give it to the fact that Assamese Jewellery, even though traditional, is catching the mass eye of not only people of Assamese origin but also those who do not belong to the ethnicity of Assam.
Assamese Jewellery is a traditional art form of handicraft belonging to a very ancient industry. As said by FC Hanniker in his monograph on gold and silver wares of Assam, "Assamese Jewellery is by no means without merit. It incurs the stock reproach of being unfinished, it is no doubt crude and precious stones used are not very precious or very well-cut. But it is quaint and characteristic". A large quantity of Gold and Silver is used in making Assamese ornaments.
The popularity of Assamese Jewellery started since the year 2002. Before that, it wasn't common amongst the masses and people did not purchase authentic products at a scale that is seen today in the market. The main contributor in bringing back the popularity of Assamese jewellery was Zangfai, one of the first retailers of Assamese Jewellery. The demand from jewellery enthusiasts and the masses grew higher over the years and this attracted many other players as well. Now it is one of the most flourishing entrepreneurship sectors of the state, attracting newer generations to its uniqueness of style, designs and texture.
The uniqueness of this form of jewellery making lies in its craftsmanship or skill. It is very unique as this skill is only prevalent in Assam and its artisans are the flag holders of this form of handicraft which cannot be found anywhere else in the globe. The demand is high in the local and national markets. It can be seen that small businesses or players involved are trying to bring in new flavours through marketing and promotion, but the question here is, Is this enough?
This form of Assamese Jewellery making could have many sides to it. Because of many players, the demand is very high and hence the supply should be able to make ends meet as well. Today, many have come into play as entrepreneurs of such a unique craftmanship, but can we assure that the authentic value of our one of kind craftsmanship is not threatened over time?
The issue of infiltration of ill quality or fake Assamese Jewellery into the market is a rising concern where the masses fail to distinguish between what is authentic and what is not. Because of this alarming concern, the 'Geographical Indicator (GI)' initiative was taken by a few of the local competitors in this field and now the process is undergoing to receive the GI tag of Assamese Jewellery. If GI tag can be achieved, it will help in removing the infiltration of non-quality, non-authentic fake products from markets and the industry artisans whose main source of livelihood is Assamese jewellery making can receive formal protection that ensures a less threatened environment.
However, the protection is not necessary to yield sustained long-term benefits for the artisans if various other factors such as raw material bank provision, quality assurance indicators, proper working conditions etc., are not in place for the artisan community of age-old craftsmanship in their natural setting. For efficiency in production, consumption and expansion of the market, this unique one of a kind craftsmanship and its artisans need consolidated efforts for community development and protection for a futuristic self-reliance model of revenue and social development. The need for consolidated socio-economic interventions for an industry with such high potential and demand has been long ignored in terms of community and need-based interventions. Only if this industry is more formalized, it will be possible to rightfully create more than existing demand and capture global market avenues and showcase our art to the world.
It can be said that the manufacturing of Assamese Jewellery reflects the image of an unorganized sector whereas it is a small-scale industry running on its own with artisans as sellers or artisans as suppliers to the booming demands of Assamese Jewellery. Small businesses across the state are primarily focusing on marketing through social media and other platforms for keeping the masses involved and attracted towards Assamese jewellery. It is very crucial and undoubtedly, it has spread the word about the craft of Assamese Jewellery and has become a booming trend amongst the masses. But as the argument goes, is this enough?