And to keep to the new trends and make it more wearable, the saaj makers are constantly experimenting with the jewellery, giving it the modern twist. Here’s a lowdown on the jewellery, which has been there for over 60 years now, and has evolved in patterns and designs over the past few decades.
Loyal buyers for old designs
Though the latest designs and patterns are popular among youngsters, elderly women prefer the traditional designs of Kolhapuri saaj with 21 leaves. Himmat Oswal, owner of HF Jewellers, in Gujri, said, “The saaj comes in limited designs and people opt more for the traditional ones. Though we make patterns which suit the young taste, older women always prefer the traditional ones.”
Mangesh Karekar, a goldsmith said, “To suit every women, saaj now comes in different sizes as well. Small, medium and large sizes are available and the antique look of the saaj is also in demand. The antique saaj is different from the traditional ones. The Kolhapuri saaj is exported to America and Australia as well.”
The actual date when the saaj was made is unknown but there are people who are into this creation for over 60 years now. Aatmaram Karekar, a goldsmith and owner of Aatmaram Karekar Suvarnakar near Khasbaug Maidan is famous in the city for his saaj carvings. “Making the Kolhapuri saaj requires a lot of skill and patience. Though the city now has very limited goldsmiths left who actually create the original saaj, people are experimenting with the jewellery.” A saaj necklace was also gifted to Britain’s first lady, Queen Elizabeth by a city-based goldsmith Karmarkar Pedhi, 45 years ago.
Gold plated saaj jewellery is popular among foreign tourists. Jagdish Rangole, from Rangole and Sons on Gujri Road, said, “Tourists prefer buying saaj which comes in gold plated and are affordable. As it is a heavy ornament which requires more gold in grams, it is costlier. Women buy this imitation saaj as it meets their needs and also look like the real gold saaj.”
Formerly, Kolhapuri saaj used to have 21 leaves of different design pendants. However, now women wear only 10 or 12 leaves in the Kolhapuri saa.