Warning: this story might cause involuntary shopping
Pro tip: fake it ’til you make it
For my thesis paper in high school economics, I decided to interview the women of Mumbai’s Koli people. This indigenous fishing community has an increasingly precarious foothold in the swirling diversity of the metropolis. And the Koli women are known to brook no bullshit, tackling rude customers with strident efficiency, throwing hands and handbags at men who wander into the sacred space of the ladies’ compartment.
While Koli men go out on boats to catch fish, it’s the women who take charge of the commerce and clients. I went to my local koliwada to speak to these savvy businesswomen, particularly about the lavish gold jewellery — the hard-earned nest eggs — they wore on their wrists and ears.
But my hypothesis was soon shot to hell as the women confessed that nowadays, they opted for Indian costume jewellery brands instead. Who could afford the real deal? Better to put the money in the bank or lock it in the almirah, ran the collective response. They showed off their ersatz earrings and bangles with a conspiratorial air, proud of how closely they resembled real gold.
All these years later, I can conclude that this lesson in finance and fashion has aged extremely well (for more advice from smart women, allow Sushmita Sen and Twinkle Khanna to be your life coaches). Much as we might appreciate the elaborate aesthetic of Indian jewellery, it doesn’t feel entirely practical to invest in expensive Indian ethnic jewellery that are only destined to emerge for weddings, otherwise sitting in a tijori collecting dust instead of interest. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on it altogether.
Modern problems require modern solutions. These wearable Indian costume jewellery brands have all the glitter and ornate beauty, without the hefty price tags. Made with semi-precious gems and often plated with real precious metals, they look as good as the real thing, without the fear of losing them in the ocean. Whether you want to look polished for a big meeting, or start a conversation at a wedding reception or cocktail party, these Indian costume jewellery brands are there for you.
What we’re shopping from these Indian costume jewellery brands
Baubles for the office
It was probably Coco Chanel who said that a good accessory can elevate the drabbest #OOTD and brighten up your hectic day at the office. Even if you’re cursed with a strict corporate dress code, these work-appropriate pieces prove you don’t have to sacrifice your own sense of style.
Revolution earrings by Isharya – ₹4,999
These polki hoops add a desi flair to western, and a fresh update to salwar suits and saris. Pair with a wide-legged pantsuit or a breezy cotton sari and bun for a professional look with personality.
Druzy drop earrings by Inaya Accessories – ₹1,299
Available in four whimsical colours, these asymmetrical earrings are a little bit funky, yet not at all distracting. For those who love jhumkas, this dangler is an understated alternative that works with conservative business formals and salwar kameez alike. Bonus: they’re part of the brand’s waterproof collection, in case you have your offsite in Goa this year.
Armour emerald toggle necklace by Isharya – ₹10,999
This necklace features an emerald pendant on a chunky gold chain for a look that’s classic enough to wear to work, perfect to add a pop of colour to a crisp white shirt. You can transition from the office to a night out, especially if you add on the gorgeous matching pearl drop earrings for ₹7,999.
To the shaadi, and beyond
Keeping up with the Kapoors at Indian festivities is all very well, unless you’re planning to pay your rent this month. You don’t have to drop a bomb on Indian ethnic jewellery that looks fancy, and better yet, you can keep wearing these picks all year round.
Candy choker by Valliyan – ₹7,500.
A playful choker that reminds me of my grandmother’s treasured navratna ring, named for its floral cluster of nine different gemstones. For you, it might represent the Infinity Stone gauntlet worn by Thanos. Either way, this piece would look just as fabulous with a sleeveless sari or anarkali as it would with a gown. The best part is, both the shape and colour of the stones are customisable. Select a look that goes well with your wardrobe and enjoy full paisa-vasool.
Crystal mogra nath by Outhouse – ₹6,500.
According to family legend, one of my ancestors habitually wore a nath so big that she had to move it aside to eat. This updated version won’t hinder you in your valiant efforts to clear the chaat counter, but it will bring an elegant touch to your sari. For extra emphasis, pair it with a bold lip and an eye-catching neckline — think mandarin collar or a deep V.
Oceana Nuit handharness by Outhouse – ₹12,500
If you’re partial to a haath-phool, this gunmetal hand harness is a little bit edgy without being too out there. The industrial feel goes equally well with western or Indian festive wear, and can add some welcome glitter to an all-black outfit – whether it’s a palazzo suit, lehenga choli, or a cocktail dress.
Although we lust over gorgeous jackets and gleaming white stiletto heels on our Instagram feed, this is India, where the most practical wardrobe staples are shorts and cotton tops, kurta pyjamas, and sensible waterproof sandals. All the more reason to elevate a simple look with a touch of sparkly Indian ethnic jewellery.
Evelyn necklace by Studio Love Letter – ₹8,600
This minimalist take on a classic pearl strand is made of charmingly uneven freshwater pearls. It’s a versatile piece: neutral enough to layer with any other gold or stone necklace if you want to look fancy, as pictured, but a casual 90’s-era accessory all on its own.
Golden hour ear cuff by Eurumme – ₹2,800
In my wayward youth, I used to have many more piercings than I currently do. Sadly, they closed up as my body objected to being stuck with a needle for what it considered to be no good reason. Enter the ear cuff: designed for those who want the look of several piercings, sans the commitment. With this set of five textured gold hoops, you can dress up your ears however you like.
Minimalistic plum blossom bracelet by Leafy Affair – ₹1,099
A kada-style bangle made of sterling silver, this free-size accessory contains a real pressed flower in a resin casing. This quaint piece of Indian ethnic jewellery is a quintessential accessory for nature lovers and cottagecore babes, or anyone who can believe in six impossible things before breakfast.
All eyes on you
There comes a time in everyone’s life — like after a breakup — when you don’t want to just attend the party, you want to be the party. Not for the faint of heart, I’d recommend reaching for these options when you want to be noticed and adored. It is Leo season, after all.
Christina hoop earrings in multicolour by Outhouse – ₹24,500
If you’re a fan of Zeenat Aman in Hare Rama Hare Krishna, these retro rainbow earrings are everything your heart could desire. Keep other accessories simple or non-existent, as these frankly insane earrings are all you need to be the star of any show.
Mosaic maangtikka by Eurumme – ₹2,900
The clean, geometric lines of this contemporary maang tikka can easily be paired with a co-ord outfit (check out these ultimate lazy girl co-ord sets) for some fusion flavour. A crop top has a similar silhouette to a choli, creating a cohesive look. Even with a basic LBD, this piece is guaranteed to draw the spotlight.
Evil eye bracelet by Valliyan – ₹6,500.
This isn’t your aunty’s evil eye bangle, but hopefully it can ward off buri nazar all the same. A graphic rendition of the blue-beaded evil eye bracelets most of us have worn at some point, this handmade bracelet will literally make them stop and stare. Stack it with a couple of plain gold bangles and slip into a maxi dress for a cool brunch look.