Bidriware is the most well known of Andhra's
handicrafts - a metal craft that derives its name from 'Bidar', the
hometown of this exquisite craft. It is an art of inlaying silver on black
metal and it is believed that this ancient and eye-catching craft entered
India more than 4000 years ago from the culture-rich Persians, Syrians and
Bidri craftsmen were patronised in the Mughlai courts and settled down to practice their craft in the fortress town of Bidar in Karnataka , giving the craft it's name. It originated with the ornamentation of royal swords and other weapons, and was later applied to domestic use in items like cigars and cigarette boxes.
Typical Bidri items include plates, bowls, vases, ashtrays, trinket boxes, huqqa bases, jewellery etc. Glass and studded bangles of Bidri are a favourite with women.
Stages In Bidri Making
Behind the breathtaking beauty of Bidri, lies hours of meticulous effort by the artisans. The original technique involved the inlaying of gold or silver on a steel or copper base. This method had its origins in Persia. However, the metal used for the base today is an alloy of zinc and copper. The black colour is the result of the heating the zinc and copper surface gently and applying sal ammoniac with old fort earth. It is engraved or overlaid with silver or brass.
There are four main stages in the manufacture of Bidri. They are casting, engraving, inlaying and oxidising.
The craftsmen cast their own pieces, making moulding clay from sand, resin and oil in proportion (20:2:1) and add borax to the clay surface to prevent the metal sticking. Flasks, jugs and vases are usually cast in two sections divided along the vertical axes. The alloy, the darkened zinc used as base is described as nine to sixteen part of zinc to one of copper, is melted and poured into the moulds and solidified.
The surface of the rough cast of the articles is filed and smoothened with sand paper and then rubbed with a solution of copper sulphate to impart a dark surface to provide a suitable base for the next stage of tracing the design and engraving.
To engrave the design, wax from honeycomb and Raal a bonding agent is used. This solution is spread on a flat stone and the article to be engraved is fixed on it. The design is traced by hand, with the help of chisels and pure silver wire of 95% purity is inlaid in the grooves to form designs. There are five different types of tools used for engraving.
In the ultimate interesting stage, the articles are heated gently and treated with a solution of sal-ammoniac and earth taken from old fort buildings, which has the effect of making the entire surface turn jet black providing a distinct contrast to the shining silver inlay.
It is this contrast that lends Bidri a uniqueness that no other metal ware could possibly claim. Finally, oil is rubbed on the piece to deepen the black matt coating. The entire process is done by hand hence, is time consuming.
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