India is home to most beautiful embroidery skills like zardozi, chikankari, sujni, kantha, kasuti, mirror work, toda. Zardozi craft was a luxurious metallic embellishment of India, dates back to Vedic times. It also adorned the nobilities of Moghul Royal courts, from their court costumes, shawls and their shoes.Zardoz were the traditional craft persons who worked with gold wire, and their craft skill was called as Zardozi. Originally this elaborate technique of embroidery used pure silver wires coated with real gold called as Kalabatun.
Gold has captured human attention since time immemorial. In arts and crafts, it was used as a medium of expression embellishing a painting, sculpting, carving, weaving, and also to decorate the designs in fabric.
In the south of India, the zardozi craft got a fresh swing under Tipu Sultan and Nizam’s rule in Srirangapatnam and Hyderabad. Later on, the East India Company gave a boost to the craft when they marketed it to Europe in the 16th century.
Lady Curzon in her celebrated peacock feather gown - Lady Curzon's peacock dress was a gown made of gold and silver thread to celebrate the 1902 Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at the second Delhi Durbar in 1903. The panels of chiffon from their designers were embroidered by Delhi and Agra craftsmen using the zardozi. It was then shipped to Paris, where the House of Worth styled the dress with a long train edged with white chiffon roses.
Zardozi embroidery requires patience and expertise. It is one of the most common choices for bridal and designer wears like lehengas and saris. The artisans stretch the fabric tightly on a wooden frame called as ädda, and work is done with a hook needle called as äari. Sequins, beads, stones are used along with the synthetic threads.
Have a look at this video from Victoria & Albert museum which captures the intricacies of the metal embroidery.
It is interesting to note that the motifs used in Zardozi are the same old traditional motifs of flowers, creepers and jalis. As a technique, it differs from other traditional embroideries. In other embroideries a variety of stitches are used; in Zardozi the thread acts as a binding medium only., The body of the design is completed by laying varieties of metallic threads in several shapes and forms along with beads, sequins and stones, almost like a metal applique work!