Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pearl hunting in Hyderabad

"Aap Hyderabad mein ho, aur aapne pearls nahin khareedi.?" (You are in Hyderabad and you haven't bought pearls yet?")

The surprise on my cab driver's face was evident. A guy in his late twenties, with surma (kohl) in his eyes, and a typical "Dakhni" accent, he was being helpful. I had seen a lot of shops in the Punjagutta area and being a mallu, had noticed and was inclined to do the pearl purchases at Joy Alukka's at Punjagutta. Fortunately, instead of dismissing his question, I asked him, "Aap koi jagah jaante ho?" (Do you know any place?) Pat came the reply, "Jee haan, RMR pearls hain na, uno Microsoft ke liye discount bhi deta. Achchi jagah hai saab." (Yes sir, RMR pearls is a good place, they give discounts to Microsoft employees too. Good place") I said, "Chaliye, dekh lete hain" (Ok, let's go there and see.)

I had heard that Charminar is the place for pearls. I had also been warned about being wary about the traders there. For one, you must know what to look for in pearls. Two, the haggling that happens there is amazing, so you better have some experience, a saying in Malayalam goes...placing your head in their arm-pits.

So, we went to RMR pearls and found the staff helpful. We bought some pearls and indeed there was a discount for Microsoft <grin> wait...<big grin>

The helpful staff at RMR divulged the following pearl hunting facts:

1. Pearls come from Basra, Venezuela and Japan. Basra pearls are very expensive. Others are the most common ones. Then there is plastic.

2. To identify a pearl, take a sharp object and start scraping the surface of the pearl. If it peels, or loses texture or feel rough to touch, its not pearl. Scraping a pearl yields some powder, doesn't feel rough to touch and there's no change to its lustre. I have heard, one could also hold the pearl over a flame but don't know much about that test, nor did the RMR guys tell me about it.

3. Pearls come in 4 colors; White, Black, Beige and Pink

4. Pearls come in all variant shapes of the sphere namely oblong, elliptical, spherical, geoidal etc. Spheres cost the most. Others are cheaper.

5. Pearls are categorized according to the following sizes: less than 3 millimeter, 3 to 8 millimeter, greater than 8 millimeter. 3 to 8 millimeter pearls are the most common and hence cheaper as compared to the other two sizes.

6. The pearls in a necklace are not identical. Since pearls grow naturally, it is difficult to obtain identical pearls. As far as possible they try to select near-identical pearls before stringing it into a necklace. The pearls are strung on a nylon thread.

The next day, we visited Charminar and immediately, we were hounded by boys carrying pearl necklaces. They quote the price as 50 Rs. or 100 Rs. depending on the tourist, and after enough haggling, would be ready to sell it to you for 10 Rs. A definite sign that you are being sold plastic!

The bazaar near Charminar sells all sorts of jewellery items but is primarily famous for pearls and bangles!

Thanks to the driver, we now have some pearls from the pearl city of India.

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  1. Pearl Hunting, reminds me of the time we spent at CharMinar. So hows Hyderabad, and r u @ Banjara Hills, still hunting for Saniz Mirza's Bungalow or did u find it. We didnt find it last time. :)

  2. I am much further ahead on the route to office. It's about 3 km down the road from Cyber towers. And, Sania Mirza stays in old Hyd. as per the info. I gathered from locals ;) Not interested in locating her place of residence :)