Meenakari, the art of enameling, is a centuries old Persian art introduced to India by the Mughals
. It is primarily the setting of precious stones into gold and the enameling of gold. The art of enameling has been an indigenous craft of India; Indian artists use Meenakari skills to decorate everything from jewelry to furniture. Meenakari is famous for its delicacy and colorfulness.
In Meenakari, an ornament crafted in gold is handed over to the artist for the desired design. The ornament is then outlined by the engraver and handed over to the enameller, who applies different colours with brushes on the engraved design.
The surface of the pits in the gold is ornamented with etching, which helps to increase the beauty of the ornament by play of light and shade through transparent colors. The etching also helps the enamel to adhere firmly. The surface is thoroughly cleaned before applying the enamel. The paint, which may have over-flowed, is carefully wiped out and the ornament is kept in the flame for the enamel to set.
It is then rubbed with corundum bone or 'Sohan' and again put in fire. It is then applied with the acid of tamarind or lemon. The article to be enameled is placed on a plate of mica in the furnace to keep it from direct contact with fire. It is very carefully shielded while cleaning or dying to prevent any dust attaching to it. Colors are applied in the order of their hardiness or power of resisting fire, beginning with the hardest.
Pure ruby is the most difficult to handle. Only the most experienced workers can bring out its beauty. All colors can be enameled on to gold. Black, green, blue, dark yellow, orange and pink are the colors usually used on copper.
The ornaments of Kundan work are combined with enameling to create two equally beautiful surfaces for the jewelry - the precious stones set on the front side and enameling at the back.
Craftsmen from Punjab, Jaipur, Lucknow and Varanasi possesses great knowledge in Meenakari. Varanasi Meenakari and Jaipur Meenakari has reached a high stage of perfection and remains unmatched.