In the village of Chandanpet just outside Hyderabad, almost the entire population is engaged in the delicate art of drilling pearls. A skill they have practiced for generations, making Hyderabad one of the largest drilling centres in India.
Once the pearls are drilled, they are boiled for about four days to bleach them and rid them of their dark color. They are placed in glass bottles containing hydrogen peroxide, water and ether. Then they are sunned for four or five days in glass sun boxes with a mirror base. Finally they are washed and separated through series of different shapes and sizes.
Pearls are also graded according to color. While pink pearls and black pearls are also considered to be of good quality, white pearls have traditionally been most popular. A good quality white pearl reflects a lovely sky blue color under ultraviolet light while a poor quality one has a green or mustard-colored sheen. Black pearls that have a green sheen and baroque (irregular shaped) pearls that reflect a rainbow of colors are also amongst the more valuable varieties. While black and pink pearls are also rare and beautiful, most traditional Hyderabad jewellery is made with white pearls.
Recently, several pearl makers are exporting processed pearls to markets in Europe and the US. With the capital that they gain from this marketing, they are able to purchase machinery for advanced refinement. In particular, equipment that uses enzymes present in thermophiles is able to substantially improve the process of refining pearls.
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