Pearl Jewelry



Humans have known pearls since ancient times. Indian astrology or Jyotish refers to it as the 'queen of the sea'. Pearls are not only associated with wealth, but are symbolic of purity and dignity. Hindu mythology associates them with the moon god (Chandra) and a number of mythological animals like snake, elephant and hog. Though the pearl is not a mineral, it is still considered as a maharatna or important gem amongst the traditional Navratnas or Nine gems.A number of myths are associated with the origin of pearls. Oysters produce pearls. The process of pearl formation starts when an irritating particle enters the oyster. The particle gets stuck within the oyster and cannot be removed. Unable to expel this particle, the oyster deposits extremely thin, concentric layers of calcium carbonate and necre. This deposit continues and between three to seven years a pearl is formed. Pearls come in different colors and sizes. They are either white or black, with tinges of yellow, red, pink, blue, brown and green. The most precious are the rosy pearls from the Persian Gulf.

There are three types of pearls

- Natural, Cultured and Semi-Cultured Pearls. Natural pearls are the ones, which are formed in the oyster naturally. These pearls do not have a perfect shape. Cultured pearls are produced with human intervention, when the irritating substance is manually placed into an oyster. Natural and Cultured pearls are mainly used in jewelry. Semi-Cultured

pearls are the ones, which are made artificially, using material like glass and plastic. These are better known as Mother of Pearls. Till 1908 only natural pearls were used. The technique of producing cultured pearls was created and perfected in Japan and is still used.

Indian pearls come mainly from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Hyderabad is the center for pearl jewelry. The erstwhile Nizam rulers of Hyderabad laid the foundation of pearl jewelry in the 19th century. Processing and grading of pearls lays the foundation for making high quality ornaments and Hyderabad specializes in it. Hyderabad is the home of highly talented craftsmen, who manually grade and process each pearl as; they are fragile and cannot be processed by machines.

The process of creating pearl jewelry begins with drilling a hole in the pearl (vertical or horizontal) with a needle, which requires a high degree of perfection. People from Chandampet, a village near Hyderabad have been doing this since generations. Then the pearls are grouped according to their color. Pearls having pink, cream or gray color are set aside while those having muddy color are treated with hydrogen peroxide. The final step involves grading of pearls according to color, size, shape etc and about 100 varieties obtained. Finally, pearls are strung together by skilled knitters or patwas, using silk or gold strings.

Hyderabad is the largest center for pearl trading in the world and sells about 40-50 thousand kilograms of pearls per year. Pearl necklaces in a variety of designs are produced here. Typical designs being Satlada (seven strands of pearls set with emeralds, diamonds and rubies, Kundan Ranihar (pearl sets with enamel kundan work), and the regular Jugni sets (several strands of pearls with a central pendant) and many more.

The traditional Marathi jewelry is made up of pearls. Kudi a special earring worn by the womenfolk is studded with pearls. So is the Nath or the nose ring, which is the most popular ornament from Maharashtra. It is a gold pin capped with a single pearl or gold bead. A variety of
pearl bangles , rings, necklaces etc are also made.

Pearl necklaces, earrings, bangles, broach, pendants, rings, nose pins and many other ornaments produced in large quantity with a variety of designs, created in India are famous world over.

Handicrafts Trade
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