Dating back from ancient times Assam has built up a rich collection of traditional jewellery designs unique and exclusive to the state that hold a special place in the hearts of Assamese women and are worn during cultural and religious events. Jorhat, the 2nd biggest city in Assam located in the district of Jorhat is the main jewellery-making centre and thousands of natives and visitors flock there every day to browse in the numerous outlets. This district also has a number of small scale cottage industries where skilled jewellery-makers also work.
Assamese jewellery is mainly made from gold which was found in abundance in many Himalayan rivers, notably the Subansiri, flowing through the state and which originally gave rise to the industry. A division of the Bodo-Kachari family, a tribe called the Sonowal Kacharis, were especially engaged in gold panning of river sand during the reign of the Ahom kings, hence their name Sonowal, meaning gold washer. Apart from gold other metals like silver were also used in conventional jewellery-making.
There are many beautiful and elaborate styles of necklaces, bracelets, rings, nose rings, and earrings, set with pearls and all kinds of precious stones. Two examples of classic designs are the gam-kharu, a wide (perhaps 3” or more), engraved bracelet made out of solid silver or gold with a clasp that secures it tightly round the wrist and the loka-paro, earrings embellished with back-to-back twin birds set in gold with rubies or more simply enamel coated.