Silver filigree (Locally known as Taskashi) is an art form from Cuttack, Odisha.
Filigree is a delicate kind of jewellery metalwork, usually of gold and silver, made with tiny beads or twisted threads, or both in combination, soldered together or to the surface of an object of the same metal and arranged in artistic motifs.
The craftsmen, of Cuttack, Orissa, practice the craft which was introduced in the state 500 years ago. Silver wires upto 1mm thick are used to make Frame (locally known as Farma) into which the small designs (Locally known as Khanja) made from thinner wires drawn upto 0.2mm in thickness are fitted. Fitting the design pieces into the frame is a tedious process and is a difficult art to master. The designs are usually inspired from the mughal era, and generally are floral swirl and leaf motifs. They make jewellery and decorative figures like idols of gods, animals and replicas of the Konark wheel and the Taj Mahal.
The filigree artists work with an alloy of 90% or more pure silver.
First, the lump of silver is placed into a small clay pot and the two are put into a bucket full of hot coals. The temperature is regulated through a bellow that is hand operated by a crank.
The melting process takes about ten minutes and then the silver is poured into a small, rod-like mold and cooled by submerging the rod in water. It is then placed into a machine that will press the rod into a long, thin wire. This tedious and physically demanding process had been done traditionally by hand and took two men to turn the crank.
Once the silver is pressed into a flat, workable wire, the wire itself can first be hand carved with intricate designs or immediately smoldered by a small kerosene fire with one artist directing the small flame with a tube held in his mouth into which he can blow. This process makes it easier for the artisan to mold the wire into the desired frame for the piece before it is cooled. Next the wires are strung together and twisted and shaped into a design by the artist’s precise fingers. Soldering is done by placing the piece into a mixture of borax powder and water, sprinkling soldering powder on it, and then placing it once again under the small flame. This insures that the detail of the design will stay intact.
Once this is done, the artist will take the warm piece and shape it into an ornament. Techniques such as granulation, snow glazing and casting are used innovatively to heighten the effect.
In a nutshell
Silver Filigree Started in Cuttack, Odisha 500 years ago, during the mughal era
Silver Filigree Involves Thin silver wires weaved beautifully inside a frame making different shaped representing various motifs
Silver Filigree Jewellery has been a relatively new concept
There are less then 50 active artizans doing Silver Filigree work in Odisha
Silver Filigree is usally done with 90% or better silver
Cuttack Silver Filigree is also known as Tarkashi
Cuttack’s Silver Filigree is widely regarded as the best form of filigree amongst the various silver filigree works