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Nagarjuna Sagar




     Hyderabad, 'Valley of Pearls'!
Pankaj Yadav

          . Hyderabad: Hyderabad is also a city of pearls. They are available in plenty in the markets here. But, one interesting fact that goes along with the Hyderabadi pearls is that these beads are not produced in India at all, and imported from Japan, China, Taiwan, the US and Australia. Lately, attempts have been made to "grow" pearls in the shells at Tuticorin coasts of Tamil Nadu, but of no avail.

         And, another misbelief is that there are two kinds of pearls - genuine and fake - like gold and silver, but those in the trade clarify that there is nothing called "fake pearls", and the value of pearls depends on the "spherical" shape of a pearl - the more circular the pearl is, the more expensive it becomes! The fascination of erstwhile rulers of Hyderabad towards the pearls attracted traders from across the country to offer the best of their produce, and, this, in turn, attracted craftsmen to display their skills on pearls, and once they settled down in Hyderabad, the city turned out to be one of the best known pearl markets. Today, it proudly finds a place on the globe as the "city of pearls". The traders claim that the pearls market here is so vast and is known the worldover, that most of the pearls that one sees anywhere in the world would have passed through Hyderabad, for at least one of the processes like piercing or stringing due to unmatched craftsmanship and comparably low cost involved.

         The four main factors to judge the quality of pearls are: colour, luster, nacre thickness, shape, say the traders. The spherical- shaped pearls are most expensive due to their rarity, and by the yardstick of nacre thickness, the quality of a pearl in inversely proportionate to the size of the nucleus and directly related to the thickness of the nacre. At the time of Independence, there were only a couple of shops selling pearls in Hyderabad, but over the years the number has grown to more than 300. The business began a few years after Independence, but gained pace only nearly two decades ago when people belonging to families other than the Nawabs developed the love for the pearls.

         Pearls are of many kinds - cultured pearls, Southsea pearls, Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls, and fresh water pearls that are most common and come from the US. The fresh water pearls are natural or cultured i.e. grown inside a freshwater mollusk (oysters or clams) that lives in a river or a lake. "A chemical is dropped in fresh water and is left for 3-4 years. As soon as the chemical comes into the contact of the mollusk, it irritates the animal and the latter creates a coating around itself in order to avoid the irritation. The covering that the animal makes around itself is called the pearl," says Avinash Gupta, a pearl dealer in Hyderabad. According to him, the Hyderabadi pearls are famous because of the city's artists' skill of bringing out its original shine, drilling, and threading. RD Aggarwal, another pearl dealer in the city since 1973, says that the business of pearls developed here because the famous Nizams of Hyderabad had a love for them, and since those times skilled artisans had been congregating here. "The pearl that comes from Basra is the most expensive, and is possessed by royal families only. It's not available for sale now. The most commonly available in today's world and sold in Hyderabad is the Fresh-water pearl that comes from China," he says.

           Describing the making of a pearl, Aggarwal says, "The pearl is basically a calcium compound. There is a very soft skinned animal inside an oyster. When a chemical is put into the oyster, the animal gets irritated and in order to minimise the irritation, the animal releases a secretion in order to make a covering around him. This secretion turns into a pearl.....the bundles of secretion after chemical reaction becomes a pearl." He adds that pearls and Hydebarad are almost synonymous.......whoever visits Hyderabad even for a couple of hours, he or she takes a taxi straight to this bazaar to buy pearls. Amrik Ray, an NRI staying in London for the past 20 years and who came to Hyderabad on a business trip, says pearls make a perfect gift for anyone. "Pearls are an exclusive gift, especially if presented to females. The pearls are available in London too, but at a very high price. I am visiting the city, so I decided to buy worth some thousand for my wife and female friends in London," he says.

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