The rich and diverse jewellery tradition of India is expressed in gold and precious gems but predominantly in silver and simple, everyday items. Gold symbolised affluence and silver was an emblem of pastoral and tribal cultural identity.
For millennia, communities of nomads moved back and forth along the Silk Road, across the great Thar Desert and the Gangetic plains of India. They traded silk, textiles, precious stones, and manifold other goods and received payment in the form of niska — gold and silver coins. As currencies changed across the trade route, they converted their earnings to jewellery and carried their wealth in the form of coins strung into necklaces and securely worn on their bodies — a tradition still followed by many tribes in India.
The term niska is mentioned in the Rig Veda as a currency and also with reference to gold necklaces with coins — niskakantha and niska-griva. Coin necklaces are pan-Indian. In Maharashtra, they are putlihaar, in South India cashumalai, and in other parts of India, they are often termed rupaiyahaar.
20th Century CE