Bone Jewelry is, as the name suggests, jewelry that is made from animal bones. Derived from the earliest form of jewelry making, this accessory dates back to the prehistoric ages. Earlier these accessories were used to denote different tribal affiliations. This is a practice that is still carried out amongst the various tribes in India, in regions like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. However, when it comes to contemporary fashion, these accessories are used to create a style statement and do not hint at tribal or cultural backgrounds. Interestingly, bone jewelry is not just limited to the Indian subcontinent. It is a popular form of jewelry used in Native American tribes as well as countries in South America and Africa.
One popular variant of this style of jewelry incorporates the use of bone beads. This is exactly what it sounds like. Artisans shape bones into round beads which are then strung together to create a necklace, a set of earrings, bangles or any other type of accessory. These are usually available in the natural off-white color of bones. This is mainly because coloring or adding dyes to the bones takes away from their natural look, which defeats the purpose of wearing this type of accessory in the first place. Often, these beaded necklaces are accompanied by pendants. These pendants can be made of differently shaped bones (or even teeth, for instance, shark’s teeth) or can be made of ceramic shapes. Either way, they have a highly natural aesthetic which is what the main appeal of this form of jewelry is. When using bones, jewelry often has a muted yet unforgettable look. It brings a subtle aesthetic to any ensemble it is paired with. However, this type of jewelry is mostly appropriate for semi-formal or casual events and cannot really be worn for a formal event. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes with bones cut and shaped either in an abstract way or in a mostly geometrical way.
When it comes to this style of jewelry, the most popular accessory is the bone bead necklace as it can be worn quite easily with almost anything. The beads used in these necklaces can be as small as the head of a pin or as large as the nail on the thumb, depending on the style and design. In some cases, these bones are left completely plain while in others, abstract symbols and shapes are painted on their surface. The latter is meant to create a pagan look while the former is a little more subtle.
Buffalo bone beads are the most commonly used type while creating this jewelry. This is because the bones of a buffalo are quite malleable while also being quite sturdy. This allows artisans to shape them easily without causing any breakage or damage. It also ensures that the accessory lasts for a long time, in spite of repeated wear. The use of bones is not limited to one section of the carcass. All the bones, including the skull and teeth, are used in a variety of ways to create different types of jewelry such as necklaces, earrings, bracelets, bangles and anklets. Buffalo bone jewelry is therefore, available in different forms, sizes and variants.
When it comes to making bone jewelry, artisans have a simple process to follow. The bones are first soaked in warm water in order to soften them. This makes it easier for the artisans to cut and shape them in any way they please. Once a design is finalized, it is roughly drawn over the surface of the bone with ink. Tools like chisels and filers are used to chip away the excess bone and create finer and smoother edges so that they don’t poke the wearer. An etching knife is then used to remove any other bits of bone that are not required, but are hard to remove with a chisel. This process of cutting and chiseling continues until the bone itself looks like the intended design. Once it is satisfactorily shaped, the artisan then works on removing any of the marks left on the body of the bone by tools. This is done with the help of sandpaper. Once the surface is smooth, the process is complete. The elements of bone are then threaded to create different jewelry pieces. A hand drill is usually used to create the holes for the thread or cords to pass through.
Styling with Funky Bone Jewelry
Bone jewelry gives off quite the tribal look which is why it should not be paired with traditional ethnic garments that require more pomp and glamour. This type of jewelry can be paired with semi-formal indo-western garments such as tunics with tribal designs worn with different colorful leggings. It can also be paired with tribal sarees such as aMadhubani art saree or Warli print sarees.