When silver is in season

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Chandiwala, Sawai Madhopur, India January 4th 2009

Mine is a seasonal business, the making of traditional silver ornaments that are worn by married women and a part of her dowry. This is still early, you are lucky today that I happen to be working on these anklets. It will start to get very busy in March, around the Holi festival, which also when the harvest comes in and the farmers will come with their silver for me to make their daughter's ornaments. Sometimes they might bring old silver ornaments too, I can melt it all down to remake them into something new.

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One kilogramme ingot of pure silver

See here, this rod of silver weighs one kilo and is a part of a set for some bride's trousseau. If you come back again later today, you will be able to see how I transform this ingot into anklets to match these bracelets.

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Two bracelets of pure silver weighing half a kilogramme each

No, we do not keep any readymade jewellery nor do we stock the silver. Our customers buy their silver from the metals merchant in ingots to ensure their weight and purity and then bring them to me. The cost is too high to tie up in inventory, each of these anklets would cost around Rs 20,000 and the bracelets half that amount. Yes, its based on the price of silver in the market.

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Silversmith with two of his three sons hammering in practiced rhythm

Yes, its a family business, my three sons are all working with me. But I'm the only artisan. Because the silverwork is seasonal, we have expanded into metalwork. During the rest of the year we make metal doors, like this one, which we made ourselves, for the stairs that lead to our house upstairs. Ten of us live in our household, myself and my wife, my sons and their wives and four grandchildren.

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Silversmith's middle son with metal door

Business is not too bad because of the metalwork we do throughout the year. Of course, our peak sales are after the two annual harvest, particularly in the Spring, as the wedding season starts right after the Holi harvest. Also, there is always construction work going on as the farmers who do well in the harvest and have no wedding in their house will often use the opportunity to make their 'kuchcha' homes into pukka ones using brick and metalwork. The 'city' (Sawai Madhopur town) is also expanding so there is always work for us. Unlike the other metal and grille workers we have our name and reputation as artisans, an established relationship of trust and confidence among the farmers. Look here, my middle son studied through grade school with Goverdhan there (my local guide), with whom else would you leave 40,000 rupees worth of silver to make your daughter's ornaments? That will be her security for her future married life away from her parental home.

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