Silver junk jewellery lovers of Kolkata wade through the overflowing streets of New Market to reach this vibrant shop standing tall and proud in a dimly lit corner of Hogg Market. Yes, Chamba Lama is the one-stop destination for all your junk jewellery needs.
The quaint shop has been in business for the last sixty six years and has never had a disappointed customer leaving through the glass doors.
The Chamba Lama tale
Chamba Lama is without a doubt one of the oldest and most prominent silver jewellery shops in India that sells junk or costume jewellery of varied ranges and choices. One can walk in and expect to be treated to a colorful display of copper, brass and silver jewellery and showpieces. The name of the shop is attributed to Gyawa Chamba referring to the reincarnating Buddha, the Buddha of Maitreyi (friendship) who is believed to be the forthcoming avatar of Buddha to set foot on earth.
During the opening of their new branch in Salt Lake, City Centre, Norkila Sherpa stated, “Our designs are inspired by Himalayan, Nepalese, Tibetan and tribal art and we try to stick to them. At most, we may change the color of the beads of cords.” It was her mother-in-law Chetenyangzom Sherpa who had established the now bustling store in the 1950s. When Chetenyangjom Sherpa first came to Kolkata, she was a girl of thirteen. Hailing from the snow-clad hills of Darjeeling in West Bengal, she came to trade in Tibetan curios and decided to stay back to open Chamba Lama.
Talking about the collections of Chamba Lama, Norkila stated, “In summer, women generally avoid necklaces. They prefer huge jhumkas (big earrings) or statement cocktail rings studded with semi-precious stones and we’ve got lots of them. The colors for summer are light shades like turquoise and coral and we use synthetic materials like resin and glass beads to keep our junk jewelry affordable.”
The growing trend of Junking
“Junk or costume jewelry is cheaper and a better substitute to an otherwise costly silver piece. How many middle-class people can afford a heavy silver jewellery set? I would rather invest 350 bucks for a wholesome faux silver piece than opt for a similar silver one of a much higher value. The best part about Junk Jewelry is the simple fact that one can afford to team up a unique piece with a matching costume,” stated Paramita Ghosh, a regular buyer at the shop.
Junking or loading up on junk jewellery to go with your costume is a fad that is fast catching up with the Indian youth. The androgynous nature of junk jewellery has found several takers and how!
“Junk jewellery is something that is not confined within the constructs of gender; it is gender fluid and it is absolutely wonderful! Men sporting jewellery is not a relatively new concept in India. Jewellery especially silver ones have very well been a part of the cultural traditions of certain regions, like Rajasthan where men sport heavy silver jewellery. Even historically, it has been a part of an Indian man’s daily costume. I often deck up on silver bracelets from Chamba Lama. I feel it suits me and has very well become a part of my ‘look’,” commented an enthusiastic buyer at Chamba Lama.
Priyanka Rawat, blogger at the Fabric Fad writes, “Junk jewellery has been in trend for quite some time now and they are my personal favourite statement pieces; they are already so bold that there is never a need to add anything extra. Pairing them with fancy outfits and sequins is a big NO, since they belong to a completely raw side of the fashion line.”
Another dedicated customer, Sreejani believes, “The shop is filled with good vibes. I got this bracelet that is inscribed with typical Tibetan motifs. I have also bought a brass Buddha figure from the shop for positive vibes. This shop is like old wine in a newer bottle.”