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In a male-dominated goldsmith, this Tamil Nadu woman makes her mark

express news service

Villupuram: Gold jewelery is almost always associated with women. But hardly any woman makes it. 40-year-old S Sankari is the only female goldsmith from Villupuram district in a male-dominated profession. She recently created hand-cut designs on nearly 1,000 gold rings overnight, raising eyebrows in the industry. Each of these rings weighed between two and eight grams.

“I faced a lot of criticism in 2010 for entering Pattaraya (workshop), which is a male den. Most of my relatives insisted that I give up the dream of ‘stupidity’ and instead focus on my children But today they are jealous of my career and financial freedom,” says Shankari proudly.

For nearly a decade in the craft, Shankari feels empowered to make a significant contribution to the family’s income. When her parents got her married, she dropped out of school in class 10, and her husband, S Shiva (45), who was also a goldsmith, encouraged her to take up the craft after seeing her interest.

“As a child, I wanted to be a district collector,” she recalls. “While it didn’t work out, I beat the odds by entering the workspace reserved for men and becoming the only woman in the district in the industry. It’s an achievement for me.”

Shankari earns about Rs 25,000 a month, and during festivals her income increases – sometimes even double. She creates hand-cut designs on gold rings and pendants, and now plans to explore more complex jewelry-making techniques.

Shankari helps with household chores and chores and cuts 300-400 rings a day. “The craft requires so much attention that even if I accidentally cut my finger, I cannot get up because there will be gold dust on my clothes. The dust that flies is part of my salary. Plus, since it’s a minute job, it puts pressure on my eyes, fingers, neck and shoulders,” she adds.

The machine used for the job vibrates like a tattoo gun, and using it together for hours can weaken the shoulder bones. While domestic work adds to the stress, women in all occupations face risks and challenges, says Shankari, but it is important that they participate to ensure the balance of men and women in the workforce.

What is a ‘hand-cutting’ craft?
Hand-cutting is the craft of finely polishing a perfectly designed gold jewelry, which adds a dazzling effect. The technique was brought to Tamil Nadu in the early 2000s, mainly by Bengali goldsmiths, says V Umapathy, a senior gold appraiser from Villupuram. “It was done using big machines and required long hours of work. But when Bengalis came to the South using a dental laboratory tool with diamond needles to cut gold with hand-cutting techniques, the game was theirs. It didn’t take long to get a lucrative job”

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