The beautiful art of Meenakari was invented by the Iranian craftsmen of the Sasanied era. It was spread to India and other parts of the world by the Mongols.
The word ‘Mina’ actually means the radiant colors of heaven. It is actually the art of coloring the surfaces of metals with beautiful colors and decorating it with intricate designs. Traditionally, Meenakari is done on gold as it holds the enamel better and longer and its luster enhances the beauty of the colors used in the jewellery. Meenakari is also done on silver. Artifacts such as bowls, spoons, boxes, decoration pieces and even jewellery, made of silver are adorned with the delicate work of Meenakari. Sometimes,copper too is used for Meenakari work.
For the Meenakari work, the surface is first cleaned properly, and then the designs are engraved on the metal, which is then filled with the desired colors in powder form. Then it is placed in a furnace; (which has the temperature of approximately 850 degrees Celsius) so that the colors of the Meenamelt, fuse and harden. It is then rubbed with a mixture of lemon and tamarind, so as to bring out the luster of the colors.
The enamel colors that are used are made by mixing powdered glass in a very small amount with metal oxides. For colors such as white and ivory,a mixture of potash, hydrated iron oxide and carbonate of zinc is used. For yellow -chromate of potash is used; for violet – carbonate of manganese is used; for blue – cobalt oxide; for green – copper oxide; for brown – red oxide; and black color is obtained from manganese, iron and cobalt. These enamel colors are widely manufactured in Amritsar (Punjab), Germany or France.
The beauty and durability of the work depends on the artist’s precision and the duration for which it is heated.This delicate and lovely art of Meenakari is unique and worth appreciation and it has a large fan following all over the world.