Crafts of Andhra Pradesh

 

 

Priceless Pearls

Like all the other states of India, Andhra Pradesh also has a rich cultural heritage. A variety of handicrafts and artistic tradition abound in the state of Andhrapradesh. Starting from the famous Hyderabad pearls, bidriware to brassware – Andhra Pradesh shines bright with its handicrafts traditions. Given below are details of some of the most prominent handicrafts of Andhra Pradesh.

Hyderabad, the capital city of the state, today is the nerve center for pearl trade in the country and is acclaimed as one of the principal pearl markets in the world. It all began with one man's fancy for this exotic, lustrous marine gem. The Nizam of the erstwhile State of Hyderabad, it is said, had a great penchant for pearls. The Asaf Jahi Nizams not only wore ropes of pearls studded with diamonds as part of State regalia but used the paste of crushed pearls as beauty aids.

The princesses were covered with pearls and weighed against them on their birthdays. Under their patronage, pearl merchants from all over the country flocked to Hyderabad and gradually the city flourished as an important trading center for pearls.

For centuries, India was known as a good market for pearls. According to Megasthenes, the Greek historian and ambassador to the court of Emperor Chandra Gupta Maurya, "Indians prefer pearls to gold. A pearl would sell for three times its equivalent in gold." In those days the pearls used to come from Basra in the Persian Gulf. But with the discovery of the oil, the pollution at the sea increased leading to the near extinction of the oysters in the Gulf and decrease in the production of the natural pearls. The vacuum for the pearls, thus created, was soon filled with the advent of cultured pearls. The technique of making cultured pearls, which involves implanting a foreign particle within the mother shell, was invented by Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan in 1893. A pearl being essentially the nacreous layer and there being no difference between such layers, both natural and cultured pearls are 'real'. Except for the negligible yield in the Gulf of Munnar, India does not produce pearls. Nevertheless the inflow of pearls, usually the cultured pearls from China and Japan, in the Indian market is plenty. The hub of India's flourishing pearl trade is close to Charminar in Hyderabad where dealers sell mostly imported pearls after refining them. The dexterity of the local craftsmen and jewelers, inherited through generations, and the availability of cheap labor have established Hyderabad in the world market.

It is the expert processing and grading of the gem in which Hyderabad specializes. Drilling a hole is the most skilled job in the process, as each pearl has to be pierced with a needle individually. In Chandampet village about 500 families have been drilling pearls for generations. The drilled pearls with a tint of pink, cream, or gray are sorted out and treated separately as they are precious. The rest are boiled for several days and then cured in airtight bottles filled with cleansing agents and exposed to sunshine. The pearls are thereby bleached and assume their natural sheen. These are then washed, dried, and graded by experienced men according to shape, size and luster-the factors deciding their value.


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