Hyderabad acquired the moniker ‘City of Pearls in India’ due to its booming pearl processing and trading industry that has been supplying the finest of pearl jewellery to India and the rest of the world for more than 400 years. Most of us know this. But have you ever wondered how Hyderabad became known as the city of pearls in India?
Historically, trading of pearls enjoyed the imperial patronage of the Nizams, who ruled Hyderabad for more than 200 years from the 18th century to the mid-20th century. The Nizams sourced various types of pearls from across the globe, especially the Arabian Gulf, which were brought to the princely state of Hyderabad in great profusion. With the arrival of the rarest of rare pearls, came in scores of skilled craftsmen, making Hyderabad a one-stop-destination for pearls for several centuries, from the 18th century till this date.
Since the time of the Nizams, Hyderabad has been a hub for high-class pearls, housing the largest number of pearl drilling centres in the entire world. And even today, the city actively preserves — and excels — in this unique craftsmanship.
There is a village known as Chandampet, on route to Kamarreddy on Medchal highway, where the entire population is engaged in drilling and processing of pearls. The village, roughly 10 km from Tupran, accommodates some of the best artisans and highly skilled labours of hand drilling, a distinctive technique that has been passed on for generations.
Once the pearls are drilled, they are boiled for nearly four days, in order to bleach them and free them of their dusky shade. The pearls are then placed in glass bottles, containing water, hydrogen peroxide, and ether. After the completion of this process for a specific period of time, they are exposed to direct sun rays for about five days in glass boxes with a mirror base. Finally, the pearls are washed and graded according to their shape, sheen, glaze, lustre, and size.
Technically, there are three types of pearls available in Hyderabad — original, cultured, and semi-cultured. The ‘original’ variety is considered as priceless, where pink and black are two rare-to-get colours. Black pearls, especially the ones that have a green sheen, fall under the rare and precious species. ‘Rice-pearl’ – a very tiny pearl variety – is of particular interest to most shoppers for its metallic lustre, while “Basra”, a pearl unparalleled in colour and sheen, is one of the costliest variants available in this Southern city of India. Since both pink and black pearls are rarely available, traditionally, Hyderabadi jewellery is mostly created with shiny white pearls.
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