“Never dull your shine for somebody else.” – Tyra Banks
I was about to write an introduction about the history of Dokra jewellery, but then, I remembered that one of our IMBB friends Scarlett has already written a beautiful article on this called: DOKRA : Jewelry and More – a Lifestyle in Itself
But, what I will do is share some other facts that you may not know and ways to brighten up pieces of Dokra jewellery (or other artwork) that you may possess or intend to buy in the near future. After all, when we invest in such trinkets, we want to ensure that they retain their original luster and look as good as new, always. Same goes for any jewellery actually, like gold or silver that often gets tarnished over time and loses its original appeal. Metals corrode too, so one needs to be watchful in how we preserve them.
Dokra, sometimes referred as Dhokra, is the name of the tribe who are metalsmiths hailing from West Bengal and now these nomad tribes have extended to regions such as Jharkhand, Orissa and even Chhattisgarh. Some of these tribes have also migrated to southern India as well as Rajasthan and can be found across the country. But yes, they are a dying tribe with a dying craftsmanship.
To find out more about how they create such rustic yet exquisite artwork through the method of Cire Perdue (Lost Wax technique) do read Scarlett’s write-up as it’s enlightening to know the background of such artisans who are on the verge of being extinct.
The first ever Dokra artwork using the technique of Cire Perdue is probably the Mohenjo-Daro dancing girl statue from the Indus Valley which dates as far as 4000 years back. Fascinating isn’t it! There are organisations working earnestly in reviving many such crafts which are almost wiped out across India and trying to empower the artisans so their artistry does not disappear and remains part of our rich heritage.
I had the chance to meet one such gracious personality last month at the Dastkari Haat held at Delhi’s Dilli Haat and had the most educational conversation with her on how she aims to help artisans revive their work. Great work!
Having said all that, now let’s get down to business. So, if you own any such jewellery or decorative pieces (could be idols, figurines, containers, trays etc.) then you would want to know how to maintain their original sheen especially since they are mostly bronze and brass alloys and will turn slightly black over time or form a greenish layer of buildup known as patina.
Many say that when this dark or greenish brown patina forms, it gives the metal a more antique look and some like to keep it that way for that old-world charm which is considered highly desirable. Please keep in mind that using any form of polish on metals involves abrasion and excessive abrasion will lead to removing the original surface of the metal. But it’s up to you how you want to maintain yours. So here are a few ways to restore them:
1. If you want to retain the patina or blackish discolouring and simply want it to shine, then all you need to do is regularly dust the item with a dry soft cloth or use a soft bristled brush to get into the fine crevices especially if it has intricate detailing like jewellery items. This will retain the antique look, but add some sparkle.
2. If you want to polish the item and remove the dull discolouration, then you first need to thoroughly remove all dust and then you can grab hold of any brass polish and apply some on a cloth and then rub it onto the Dokra item. Then, take another clean and dry cloth to buff the brass to its original dazzling sheen. For instance you can get your hands on some ‘Brasso’ which is widely available in the market and will do the trick. Always remove dust and grime and then apply any form of polish and you don’t want to rub the polish over the dust and end up corroding your item.
3. Take half a lemon dipped in a plate of table salt and by rubbing this liquid on to the artefact, heavy tarnish will get removed. But, this gives an unpolished look. So you would need to buff it heavily with a dry cloth to regain the shine.
4. You can also use a paste made of lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda and do the same and then rinse off and buff with a clean dry cloth.
5. Toothpaste is yet another tip that works quite well to polish Dokra relics. Just apply a small dollop of paste onto a soft cotton cloth (a piece of an old t-shirt works great as it won’t cause any friction) and rub in small circular motions. Buff the residue off once its dried.
6. Once you’ve done the above, i.e. dusted off all dirt and grime, followed by removing discolouration and buffed it back to its sheen, you can further brighten your Dokra items by anti-tarnishing them by applying a protective coating. One can get hold of some microcrystalline wax. This wax slows down the tarnishing process and increases longevity of your jewellery and other products. Take a very small amount onto a cloth and then polish immediately. It dries to a hard, crystalline finish which acts as a protective layer. This can be removed with white spirit in case of any unwanted build-up.
So ladies, summing up the above; keep the polishing to the bare minimum and dust as much as you require. If your items have reached a stage where they badly need brightening up and you are looking at some serious polishing, then first dust, then apply brasso or any homemade polisher and if you want then coat them with some microcrystalline wax.
Enjoy your Dokra jewellery and other items. I think they look exquisite and with such a rich cultural background, I’m looking forward to getting myself some ornaments and home decoration pieces soon.
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