Hyderabad City of Pearls

by Louis Werner

Once retrieved from the fastness of the sea, pearls in those days reached India in two ways: from the Gulf of Mannar in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) via the south Indian city of Madurai, and from the Arabian Gulf via the port of Goa. The French jeweler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who made four sales trips to India in the late 17th century, preferred to do business in Goa?then controlled by the Portuguese?because it was a free market. Elsewhere, whoever ruled generally had first choice in the market and the last word on price.


Marco Polo described the situation he found in India 400 years earlier. "The best of the diamonds and other large gems, as well as the pearls, are all carried to the Great Khan and other Kings and Princes of those regions. In truth they possess all the great treasures of the world."

Then, the finest quality pearls were said to be Ceylonese; they were uniformly white, and they were rare. Ibn Battuta visited the island in 1344 and recounted a meeting with the king. "One day I went to him while there lay about a large number of pearls. His men were busy sorting and classifying the best. 'Have you seen any pearl fishing in the countries you come from?' he asked. 'Yes, on the islands of Gays and Kish in the Arabian Gulf,' I said. Then he picked up a few and asked, 'Are their pearls like these?' 'They are inferior,' I replied. He was delighted and said, "These pearls are yours. Don't be shy, you can demand of me as many as you desire."

Today, Ceylonese pearls are unknown in Hyderabad, but the slightly yellowish ones from the Arabian Gulf, known as Basra pearls, are readily available both in newly restrung necklaces and in precious old settings. Dealer Madan Mohan, whose great-grandfather Raja Bhagwandas was the sixth nizam's jeweler, financier and friend, remembers as a child holding one in his hand the size of a chicken egg, weighing more than half a pound.

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India's Old Gems Get a Makeover

by MARGOT COHEN

New Delhi - At Bharany's, a family-run jewelry company in New Delhi's upscale Sunder Nagar neighborhood, a client came in recently with a 70-year-old turban pin— typically worn by a groom on his wedding day—studded with white sapphires and small emeralds.

Called a "kalgi," after the Persian word for a heron's plume, the feather-shaped ornament was crafted in Rajasthan in a style harking back to the Mughal court's princely custom of sporting impressive gems on their turbans. The client's request: Find some new use for the inherited pin, as it had been languishing in a bank safety-deposit box for the past 20 years.

In the hands of 45-year-old jeweler Mahesh Bharany, the pin was turned upside down and reborn for modern dinner-party wear as a woman's pendant suspended on three strands of pearls and emeralds.

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Islamabad Exempts Pearls from Customs Duty

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Wednesday announced exemption from customs duty for the import of natural pearls and precious stones or semi-precious stones to facilitate jewellery exports from the country.

To promote gems and jewellery sector, the Cabinet in Trade Policy 2008, approved waiver of customs duties and sales tax on import of Gold, Diamonds, Silver, Platinum, Palladium and precious stones. The waiver was not extended to pearls and other synthetic or reconstructed precious or semi-precious stones though these are increasingly being used in jewellery production. Further, FBR did not comprehensively implement the decision. Trade Policy had proposed to exempt natural pearls and other synthetic or reconstructed precious or semi precious stones from customs duty and sales tax.

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EU Cuts Tariff on Indian Gems, Jewels

The European Union has reduced tariffs on gems and jewellery originating from India under its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which has been extended for the period from January 1, 2009 until the end of 2011.


Under GSP trade agreement, developing countries receive preferential access in the form of reduced tariffs for their goods entering the EU market. The European Commission said in a statement that jewellery, pearls, precious metals and stones from India would be eligible for the duty benefit under the scheme.



However, Sanjay Kothari, chairman of the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said, "The relaxation would not benefit the Indian industry much as the EU forms a very small part of our market.

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