The Jewel of the Nizams – Pearls

Pearls and Hyderabad have been synonymous with each other for years now. Hyderabad acquired the name “City of Pearls” due to the generous benefaction of the Nizams whose reign lasted for about 200 years. The Mughal Nizams were an imperial group of Persian-influenced Muslims that gained power over India, and brought with them their aesthetic ideals and highly skilled craftsmanship to the Indian sub-continent in the 1500s.

The Nizams led a very lavish lifestyle. Right from their food habits, and their hobbies, to the way they dressed, the Nizams were deeply rooted in tradition and were well-intact with their culture.

pearl-5Their imperial patronage and prosperous lifestyles attracted the likes of many a gem trader and jewelers from all over the world particularly more so from the Middle East, where the rare original pearls are found in profusion. The pearls were then brought in abundance to Hyderabad and the Nizams, during their glorious reigns, showered gratitude by offering pearls in variety to their subjects. This is how Hyderabad became the one-stop destination for pearls.

The Nizams adorned pearl jewelry in the form of head jewels, chokers, earrings, baju bandhs, and anklets. Women of royalty would wear bangles or choodiyan with characteristic pearls and stones and haath-phool which is a kind of delicate hand jewel extending from the wrist to the fingers.

Since then, pearl jewelry became an important aspect of Hyderabadi culture. After Hyderabad was stripped off its princely state title, the jewels of the Nizams were transferred to the government. The collection consisted of 173 pieces of jewels which included 25,000 diamonds weighing over 12,000 carats, 2000 emeralds weighing over 10,000 carats and pearls weighing more than 40,000 chows (Pearl merchants in the Arabian Gulf used chow as a unit of measurement of pearls). Another favourite of the Nizams was the Navratan, the nine stones representing the nine planets is basically Hindu in origin. It is believed that the entire collection of pearls in the Nizam’s collective collection could fill up an Olympic size swimming pool!

pearl-6In the Hyderabad’s pearl jewelry industry, it is interesting to find that traditional designs have survived side by side with modern western designs. What remains significant to traditional Hyderabadi pearl jewelry is the Satlada Haar which refers to a seven strand necklace and Panchlada Haar which is a five-strand necklace. The Haars or necklaces are made up of strands of graded Basra pearls. Earrings such as “karanphool” and “cholaphool” set with uncut diamonds and pearls are some of the more preferred and popular jewelry items as part of the wedding attire. Another popular traditional pearl jewelry item that is worn with Cholaphool earrings is the Gulubund choker made up of five strings of pearls, interspersed with three gold pendants set with rubies and emeralds.

Hyderabad has grown to be the hub of India’s most famous pearls for over 400 years. The most famous concentration of pearls is clustered in and around Charminar area. Gulzar Houz, Chaar Kamaan, and General Bazaar are the more popular areas to shop Hyderabad pearl jewelry from.

The two most important factors determining a pearl’s quality

5 Colour-combos in Pearl Jewellery 4

When you want to buy the best pearls, there are two factors to look for: luster and the blemishing. Once you have decided on the shape, colour and size of the pearls you want to buy, these are the factors you need to look for. The final goal is to buy pearls with the right amount of luster with minimal blemishing. Obviously, your personal preferences play a very large role in determining the pearl you eventually buy, but you must consider these two factors.

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What is blemishing in pearls?

A very miniscule percentage of pearls will have no blemishes or spots or dents on them. These are naturally formed jewels and any imperfection on them is due to natural causes. Blemishes could be anything from varying shades of colour, to smudges or small incisions on the pearl. Normally, these imperfections are small in themselves. It is only when someone looks at them up close that the blemishes become visible. When buying pearls, try to pick pearls with the least amount of blemishing. Obviously, the clearer the pearl, the higher the price, so you need to find the right balance based on your tastes.

Also, read about – Value Of A Pearl

What is the luster or a pearl?

Luster is the shine of a pearl. It basically means the brighter and more reflective a pearl, the better it is. In the bright lights of a jewellery store, every pearl looks bright, making your job difficult. A lustrous pearl will have a sharp reflection of the surroundings on its surface. So how do you pick the most lustrous pearl? When you would like to inspect a pearl better, ask for it to be taken out of its case, and view it in a less bright area to determine its luster. A pearl with high luster will give a crisper reflection on its surface as compared to a dull pearl. Dull pearls also tend to look chalky when taken out of their cases. A good way to compare pearls is to take pearls you own that have high luster. This way you can compare and buy the brightest pearls as per your tastes.

Read about – How To Spot A Fake Pearl

Choosing the perfect pearl

If you want a pearl which is perfectly round, has no blemishes and has excellent luster, you will find it difficult for a variety of reasons including price and availability. Natural pearls with these qualities are quite expensive and the only other option is to buy imitation pearls, which is not what you want. However, if you are willing to look around and find pearls with fewer blemishes and acceptable luster, in a shape approaching round, you will have better luck. Pearls are the ultimate foil to any dress you wear. As jewels, they are unique in the sense that they accentuate the wearer and her dress more than becoming the focal point of attention. If you have a clear idea of the kind of outfits you would like to wear pearls with, you will easily be able to buy the right pearls.

Must read – How To Pick Your Perfect Pearls

How to pick Freshwater pearls

Freshwater pearl earringsFreshwater pearls are the most widely used types of pearls. They are cultured in China and other Eastern countries. The shellfish in which these pearls are formed often hold between 20-30 pearls in each shell. This high supply of freshwater pearls makes them the most popular and affordable type of pearl. If you would like to pick the best freshwater pearl, here’s what you need to know.

What shape of freshwater pearl to pick?

Freshwater pearls come in a variety of shapes due to the process used to culture them. A small tissue taken from a mollusc or oyster’s mantle is placed inside the shell, causing it to create a pearl around this foreign body. Since this is a tissue around which the shellfish is forming the pearl, chances are that the pearl will rarely be perfectly round. They are usually oval, potato-ish or off-round in shape. Some freshwater pearls are in indefinable shapes, making them a collector’s item. Round freshwater pearls, though rarer, are thus the most preferred freshwater pearl shape while buying. Then again, even the roundest looking freshwater pearls may not be exactly round when measured. If you have picked a strand of round freshwater pearls, what remains to be seen now is their luster and blemishing.

What colours do freshwater pearls come in?

Freshwater pearls occur naturally as pick, white, peach, bronze, apricot, lavender, grey and other shades. They are often color treated to get different colours such as black or chocolate brown or red or any other colour. To choose the best colour of freshwater pearl, it is best to put the pearl or the pearl jewellery against your skin and see how well the pearls’ colour complements your skin tone.

Comparing freshwater pearls’ shine to other pearls

Usually, the luster of a pearl depends on the thickness of the nacre, the substance which makes up the outer coating of the pearl. Freshwater pearls generally have thicker nacre than other kinds of pearls. This translates into an acceptable level of shininess. However, the overall luster of freshwater pearls is usually lesser. When you compare the with a strand of Akoya pearls, Freshwater pearls will seem less brighter and to have less sharper reflections on their surface. Freshwater pearls are more likely to have an irridiscence to them when exposed to bright lights.



How to pick Akoya pearls

If you are looking for perfectly round pearls, then Akoya pearls are what you seek. These rare pearls are valued very highly, not just for their shape but for their iridescence. Akoya pearls are often the centerpiece of jewellery, their brilliant presence lighting up any outfit.

How are Akoya pearls formed?

Akoya pearls are formed when a mollusk coats a round bead, introduced into the mollusk, with nacre. Since the bead is round, layers of nacre tend to fall almost symmetrically all over the pearl, ensuring these pearls are almost perfectly round. Each Akoya mollusk is nucleated with 3-5 beads, of which only 1 or 2 (in rare cases) are pearls that can be marketed. It is this process which makes Akoyas so rare and precious.

What factors to look for in an Akoya pearl?

Akoya pearl setSince Akoyas are almost perfectly round, customers should focus on: luster, size of the pearl and color.

Akoya pearls are among the most lustrous types of pearls. Their sharp luster, the clarity of reflection and their iridescence makes them a gorgeous jewel with any outfit. Obviously, the higher these characteristics, the more expensive the pearl gets.

Akoya pearls have a smaller range of size than most other pearls. They range from about 2mm-10mm, with pearls above 8mm being very rare. Since the roundness of these pearls, and their shiny brilliance, gets enhanced with size, the price of larger Akoya pearls tends to go upwards with every millimeter.

Akoyas are mostly sold in two colours: white or black.

Black Akoyas are dyed, as Akoya pearls naturally form as white pearls.

White Akoyas are found with gentle overtones of silver, rose or ivory. White akoyas with these colour tones are the most widely available akoyas. It is best to pick a Akoya pearls that complement your skin tone. Choosing pearls that blend in with your skin tone would lessen the kind of transformative impact pearls can have on a person’s style quotient.

How to pick South Sea Pearls

Pearl earrings

South Sea Pearls are the most precious among pearls. Their large size and limited availability makes them highly sought after. The richness and sheer luxuriousness of colour displayed by South Sea Pearls is unmatchable and makes them a delight to own and wear.

South Sea Pearl earrings

How are South Sea Pearls formed?

South Sea Pearls are cultured in a special type of oyster that takes anywhere from 2-4 years to yield pearls. These oysters do not thrive in any other location outside their native Australian, Indonesian and Philippine waters and are very susceptible to stress and disease. Due to these limiting factors, South Sea Pearls are rare and exceedingly valuable. They have a distinct, thick outer shell (nacre)

South Sea Pearls shapes and sizes

South Sea Pearls are the largest of pearls. They range from 8-20mm with 12-14mm being the average size. These pearls come in a variety of shapes and are rarely perfectly round. That said, South Sea Pearls in drop shapes or non-round shapes are still exquisitely beautiful and used by jewellery designers in a variety of sets & jewellery pieces. While round South Sea Pearls command a place and price of their own, non-round South Sea Pearls make brilliant fusion pieces when set with other jewels.

The most precious are White South Sea pearls. These are the rarest kind and their dazzle and rich colour makes them the most precious pearls.

What colours do South Sea Pearls come in?

South Sea Pearls come in white, silver, bluish, cream, champagne and deep gold colours. The natural colours and luster of each pearl is so rich and complete that South Sea Pearls are only washed and buffed to bring out their natural glow.

How do you pick South Sea Pearls

Due to their intrinsic beauty, the factors to choose South Sea Pearls are different from other pearls. Where we would look at luster and blemishing for Freshwater or Akoya pearls, for South Sea Pearls, we focus on size and roundness alone for South Sea Pearls. Placed next to any other pearl, even the least shapely South Sea Pearl exhibits an iridescence and glow unmatched by any other type of pearls. When you decide to buy South Sea Pearls, understand the kind of occasions you would want to wear them. A string of round South Sea Pearls is as valuable as it is versatile, whereas South Sea Pearl necklaces and chains are gracious complements to any woman.

Irrespective of how you choose to wear them, you will never go wrong with South Sea pearls.

How to pick Tahitian pearls

Found only in the South Pacific, the Tahitian pearl is a lustrous pearl that comes in enchanting dark shades that make it appear black to the naked eye. Their beauty and exclusivity makes them among the most sought after jewels in the whole world.

How are Tahitian pearls formed

Tahitian pearls are produced by a black-lipped oyster in the warm waters of the Pacific. Each pearl has unique characteristics and no two Tahitian pearls are alike. This distinctiveness increases the wonder evoked by Tahitian pearls as even a full necklace of these will consist of pearls that are gorgeous and totally unique.

Tahitian pearls

The size & shape of Tahitian pearls

Tahitian pearls can often be as big as 13mm in size. Their size depends on the time spent in the maturation process, which also contributes to their shape and luster. Tahitian pearls come in a range of shapes such as round, off-round and drop shaped. Needless to say, the most sought after are the roundest Tahitian pearls.

The Luster of and colours of Tahitian Pearls

Black Tahitian pearls are very differently lustrous when compared to white pearls. The luster of Tahitian pearls can range from a soft brightness to a silky black shine. Each Tahitian pearl is different in luster and when set with other Tahitian pearls in a chain, necklace or bracelet, creates a gloriously unique spectacle.

While Tahitian pearls in general appear black, each has a different texture and coloration. There are dark greens and grays that mingle with each other to form a rich, deep, darkness. Sometimes, these pearls come in light tones of green, red and even white, though these are not as common.

What to look for when buying Tahitian pearls?

Choosing the best Tahitian pearl for you is a two step process. The first is to see how lustrous the pearl is. You can gauge this by seeing the quality of light that is reflected of the pearl. The sharper the light is reflected, the better the luster. Choosing a lustrous pearl also ensures you buy a pearl with thick nacre. The nacre is the surface coating of the pearl and the thicker it is, the longer the pearl will retain its distinctive shine and beauty.