The city of Hyderabad is known for its minarets and its
pearl bazaar. Hyderabad pearls have long been cherished and famed for
their quality and lustre. Mention the name of pearls to anyone in the
jewellery trade in India and the name that pops up to mind is Hyderabad.
The city is a one-stop-destination for the rare, luminescent, soft, tear
drop pearls. Wide range, price and superior quality are some of the
factors, which make the city a true pearls paradise. From cultured pearls
to the rare 'Basra', the city has all of them.
A Royal Heritage
The pearl trade was prospered here for centuries under the royal patronage of the Qutub Shahi kings and the Asaf Jahis. Legend has it that pearls were showered on the people by the kings at the time of ceremonies as gifts. The affluent lifestyle beckoned many a craftsman from distant parts of the world, especially the Arabian Gulf where the rare original pearls are found in abundance. Hence, Hyderabad became the one-stop-destination for pearls.
In Chandanpet village situated just outside Hyderabad, almost the entire population is engaged in the delicate art of drilling pearls. They have practiced this skill for generations, making Hyderabad one of the largest drilling centres in India. Once the pearls are drilled, they are boiled for about four days to bleach them and rid them of their dark.
Pearls originally come in different colours and hues, and are then bleached white or a shade of cream. Silver, black, gold and pinks are also gaining increasing interest. In fact, a deep lustrous black pearl is one of the more rare finds in the pearl industry, and so are expensive. The real Basra pearls (come from Persian gulf) are also available, but only with bigger merchants dealing exclusively in pearls.
There are three types of pearls, Natural, cultured and imitation-
Pearl's made without man's assistance. Natural pearls have become so rare and expensive, that for the vast majority of people cultured pearls are the only option.
Cultured pearls are those that come from an oyster that dies after the pearl is removed. They tend to have a larger core or nucleus.
In most cases, a glass bead is dipped into a solution made from fish scales. This coating is thin and may eventually wear off. One can usually tell an imitation by biting on it. Fake pearls glide across your teeth, while the layers of nacre on real pearls feel gritty.
Lustre and size are generally considered to be the two major factors that determine a pearl's worth. Lustre for instance, depends on the fineness and evenness of the layers. The deeper the glow, the more perfect the shape and surface, the more valuable they are. Size on the other hand, has to do with the age of the oyster that created the pearl (the more mature oysters produce larger pearls) and the location in which the pearl was cultured.
A good quality white pearl reflects a lovely sky blue colour under ultraviolet light, while a poor quality one has a greenish or mustardish sheen. Black pearls that have a green sheen and baroque (irregular shaped) pearls that reflect a rainbow of colours are also amongst the more valuable varieties.