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Ladies Day Out on Hyderabad Express!

A five-minute chat on Facebook and the three childhood friends already planned out a picnic! Women love to talk...and shop too. So, you know where this trio will be heading to.

Ritika knows every street, nook and corner of Hyderabad while Farah is the master planner of this ladies day out saga - one day of total excitement and shopping extravaganza. No, they won't barge into a train or APSRTC bus or even the metro. Well, Charu has just learnt to drive the car and zoom...they go!

There are many markets to explore in Hyderabad, each comprising of shops specialized in selling particular products. Hyderabad is very famous for - glass bangles, pearls, crispy cottons. Surprising that the ladies decide to buy artificial ornaments and pearls only - a unanimous decision, without any arguments!

Pearl Shopping in Hyderabad

Great! After Chennai express, it is their 'Hyderabad Express' running on the wide roads of Hyderabad. The trio reaches Chandanpet in the outskirts of Hyderabad where most of the people are engaged in the art of drilling pearls. Do you know that Hyderabad is one of the largest drilling centres in India? Here, the artisans have been engaged in this work for many generations.

What the ladies saw here, made them forget the idea of only buying pearls. They became inquisitive and wanted to know more!

Farah enquired from one of the artisans about how the pearls were processed. The artisan took no time to enlighten them about the entire process. He told them that after drilling (horizontally or vertically), the pearls were bleached to remove their dark colour by boiling for four days. Then they were placed in hydrogen peroxide, water and ether inside glass bottles. They were then sunned for another  4-5 days in glass sun boxes which had a mirror base. They were then washed and cut into diverse shapes and sizes.

The artisan was in this trade for the past fifteen years. He reflected upon how one could gauge the quality of pearls. He told the ladies that pearls were actually graded depending on the colour. For instance, black and pink pearls were supposed to be good quality pearls. The much sought after white pearls reflected sky blue hue under ultraviolet light. Others of inferior quality had mustard coloured or green lustre.

Popular White Pearls

On vouching the inquisitiveness of the ladies, another artisan joined in. He explained further that traditional hyderabadi jewellery is designed using the popular white pearls. These refined pearls were exported to U.S. and European countries.

The trio was taken aback when they learnt that Hyderabad was actually famous for pearls that actually came from China! ''What''? The ladies screamed together. This was surprising indeed. Their own 'city of pearls' has imported pearls bought from China!

The artisan continued spilling out years of his accumulated knowledge about pearls and pearl trading in Hyderabad. He said that white pearls for costume jewellery cost one-fourth of what the salt water variety cost. Years back, pearls were also imported from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Basra pearls were imported from Gulf countries. However, now the Chinese pearls reigned the market, large and gleaming South Sea pearls being the most expensive. Some dealers also imported pearls from Indonesia, Japan, Venezuela, Tahiti (expensive pearls) and Australia.

Ritika was listening silently. Then a very pertinent question cropped up in her mind. ''Hey!'', she stated, ''What are the types of pearls available?''

The artisan was impressed with this question and continued. He told the ladies that natural, cultured and semi-cultured/man-made pearls were available in the market. Pearls from Tuticorin (India), Venezuela and Iraq (Basra pearls) were natural pearls. Cultured pearls were imported from Japan and China. Majorica pearl from Spain was a man-made pearl. It was altogether a 500 crore worth annual trade in Hyderabad.

Pearl Bangles from Hyderabad

The ladies were taken aback. More so because they had been living in the city for more than 10 years now and had never visited this place earlier. They could see tourists everywhere mostly enquiring about quality, colour and shape of pearls.

The artisan explained that pearls were graded according to their sheen, shape, size and uniformity. So many ornaments such as bracelets, kundan sets, satlads (seven strand pearl set) chand-bali (moon-shaped ear ring), choker, chatai (mat type chain), vaddenam (waist belt), enameled sets etc. were made using pearls. Shops from where pearl sets could be bought in Hyderabad were Mangatrai (Patthargatti and Basheerbagh), Kedarnathji Motiwale and Jagadamba (Charminar, Begumpet and M.G. Road).

The car drove at a high speed to the pearl shop  and it did not take the ladies much time to change all their cash to kind! They thronged from one shop to another hunting for that perfect coloured, perfectly shaped necklace, bangles, ear rings...latest design which resembled the one actress Kareena wore in that particular film...  

Pearl Shopping in Hyderabad

The ladies had taken to the streets after years. They finished shopping (testing the patience of the shop keepers and everyone around them). It was time to gulp down some street food, little more gup-shup about the artisan, shop keeper and their own haggling genius.

However, like all good things, it was now time to head back home. Charu drove well on the busy streets of Hyderabad. They bid each other adieu to continue discussion on the shop keepers who were quoting hyper prices... their chat on this subject continues to this day on Facebook! Wanna send them a friend request to know more about Hyderabad pearls?

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