The story of Naqsha Navees by Qurat-ul-ain Ali

Article  /  History   Making   Research
Published: 17.02.2023
Qurat-ul-ain Ali
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Necklace and earrings drawing by Muhammad Tayyab..
Necklace and earrings drawing by Muhammad Tayyab.

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Jewelry drafting was a part of the Pakistani jewelry market decades back in the 1980s and 1990s in the form of jewelry drawing. Its practice was named Naqsha Naveesi, the local terminology of jewelry drawing, and the person who draws it was known as Naqsha Navees.
In early times Naqsha Naveesi was the base of jewelry making in Pakistan. It wasn't just a jewelry draftsman who was redrawing the existing design from a picture or anyone’s idea on paper but was also making new creative designs with traditional elements.

In early times Naqsha Navees used to learn the skill from their experienced masters known as Ustaad by sitting in their workshops because there was no jewelry institute at that time. The Ustaad with their experience and knowledge used to teach jewelry drawing to the learners, starting with the basics to the advanced level. With this learning, the Ustaad also used to teach jewelry-making techniques which was an important factor in jewelry designing and drawing because a small piece of jewelry contains a lot of minor details and technicalities for manufacturing.

Traditional Process of Learning 
There were different learning stages of jewelry drawing. In the beginning, learners learn to draw a circle of small size again and again until they achieve its perfection, which takes several days. After circle drawing the next step used to draw a specific size of a circle without using any tool. After achieving the perfection of circle drawing the next step used to teach the drawing of traditional motives. There are different local names given to different types of motives such as Pattian and Jharian. Pattian is the floral motive or an element through which a design is made, under the term Pattian, there are different types and styles of Pattian. Whereas the term Jharian is a joinery motive to connect different types and quantities of Pattian with each other. First, they learn to draw them separately and later on different combinations of Pattian and Jharian. After this stage of learning, the next step used to draw a jewelry piece through these Pattian and Jharian, through this practice they used to draw different new designs of jewelry.

Types of Pattian with Jharian by Muhammad Tayyab.

Therefore when the learners draw a jewelry design the Ustaad is used to guide them about the technicalities and issues of a design related to its making. There are different methodologies to draw a necklace and earrings. For drawing a necklace design, the first step was used to draw a neckline for reference in form of a large circle, then draw the center line, with the help of this center line main element used to be drawn at the center after this side elements need to be a plan by decreasing the sizes of elements side elements should be drawn with the flow of design and at the end locking system needs to be drawn. For earrings first need to draw a center line for reference and for symmetrical designs half design used to be drawn on the right or left side of the center line and the other side used to be traced. Earrings used to be drawn after necklace drawing to take the guidance of elements. While designing an earring or Jhoomar (jewelry article) from a necklace design Naqsha Navees used to first understand the flow of elements and stone colors in the necklace and after that, they draw the earring and Jhoomar according to that particular flow. This was the basic process of Naqsha Navees learning and drawing a jewelry piece. 

Necklace and earrings drawing by Muhammad Tayyab.

Role of Naqsha Navees
They were linked with craftsmen. Craftsmen were the middleman between Naqsha Navees and the jewelers. Craftsmen used to understand the design and requirements from the jeweler and convey it to Naqsha Navees to draw the design on paper according to the requirements. One of the most important technical requirements to draw a design was a gold weight upon which the price of the jewelry piece depended, they have to draw the design according to the required weight and their designs were approximately ninety percent successful in achieving the specific gold weight. Naqsha Navees used to draw 2D drawings of a jewelry piece, they didn’t mention the techniques, stone sizes on the paper but they used to design and draw by keeping in mind the weight of the gold to be used. The techniques and stone sizes used to be discussed verbally with the craftsmen to keep the design open to be manufactured in any technique either an element should be kept plain or filled with filigree technique or set with stones. The number of stones could vary according to the demand of the consumer market. These drawings were also used to be shown to customers to customize them according to their requirements.

Necklace and earrings drawing by Muhammad Tayyab.

From a personal interview with a craftsman, Naqsha Navees used to be the backbone of jewelry making in early times because a craftsman was not able to make a jewelry piece on his own without the help and guidance of Naqsha Navees and fifty percent of their work was dependent upon them. They just not draw the design on paper but also engraves that design on metal sheets for craftsmen for design accuracy. They also used to guide craftsmen about stone settings and technicalities such as thicknesses of metal sheets for required weight, dividing a design into sections for adjustability, etc. It was necessary to discuss all minor details which needs to be resolved before with the craftsman to get a finely finished jewelry piece. Another important factor for a Naqsha Navees was to draw a design carefully with perfection if there will be any issues in the drawing that will affect the making of the jewelry piece. Naqsha Navees was the one who draws and portrays someone or his own ideas on paper through his drawing skills. Basically, Naqsha Navees was a jewelry designer at that time who was creating new and innovative designs as well and those designs show the originality of Pakistan because that was totally coming from local techniques, elements and motives. They were skillful enough to create original designs which show their region.

Causes of Downfall
  • Identity: Many jewelers preferred to make jewelry pieces by hand with its specific design style, it was time taking process but with a high-end finishing which was the identity of the jeweler. Jewelers were used to guide the design style verbally and get a design on paper by a Naqsha Navees. This was the reason that different jewelers were known for their specific design identities.
  • Low income: Naqsha Navees were used to pay according to drawing there was no salary system, jewelers were not paying them much according to their skill and efforts. This lowers their moral and realizes their value in the market.
  • Lack of Patronage: Naqsha Navees were playing a very important role in jewelry making and it was not possible to make any jewelry piece without their drawings and instructions. Unfortunately, Pakistani jewelry market was not able to appreciate their efforts properly and lacked in promoting their original designs.  
To conclude, Naqsha Navees played a major role in the history of Pakistani Jewelry making and they deserve to get them known worldwide for their contribution to the industry, their skill needs to be highlighted so that the current designers and students should know about them. We should realize their importance and encourage them to work again to produce more original designs for the Pakistani jewelry industry.

About the author

Qurat-ul-ain Ali is a qualified Jewelry designer, with ten years of teaching experience as a Lecturer at the Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design in Lahore. She is also a creative jewelry designer who makes jewelry in gold and silver metals.