She was very fashionable for her times , very fond of dressing up. I always used to marvel at the way she maintained herself , no less than a Maharani (queen) Her love for style and fashion , apart for her beautiful collection of pearls was inherited from her mother she often told me . In the early days of my marriage, we both used to spend hours together chatting about our days in Bombay . We both were Bombayites ( from Mumbai) , and had to settle down in Chennai after marriage . In her, I found a friend in a strange place away from home and my small family . She too had missed her family , so I think she understood how homesick I used to feel back then . There was no way to communicate with the family except a long distance call once a week , which had to be pre-booked and a letter occasionally. And so both of us would spend hours in the afternoon ( no cable tv those days ) talking about our life in Bombay before marriage and one such time she started talking her fondness for pearls . And this is what I remember her telling me .
The Maharanis loved pearls which came all the way from Basra , and wore breathtakingly beautiful pearl necklaces strung with a number of precious stone embellishments . Diamonds , emeralds , rubies , sapphires and other precious stones carefully selected , added color to the luminescent pearls . Each necklace was designed and strung carefully by the master craftsman or Patwa of the royal court using silk as the stringing material . The needles finer than human hair was used to string the pearls . It was so difficult to thread such a fine needle , that it took only the experienced patwa to add new thread if it snapped during the weaving . The pearls had very fine holes and so there was no way in which a thicker needle could be used. Therefore some bit of a string ( made from a single strand of silk ) was always kept threaded ( sometimes for years , till it frayed and broke ) and the new string was always added with a joint a few inches away from the needle .
|materials used for stringing Pearls|
Carefully hand twisting the silk floss , the patwa ( the pearl weaver ) made the string on a flat table covered with velvet rolling it in such a way that the separate strands merged together and obtained a tight twist . This prevented the jewellery from breaking during wear and tear. Before stringing the patwa carefully washed the pearls in a herbal solution of soapnut ( aritha ) carefully and dried the pearls .
|Grading pearls .|
The grading came next , and depending on the design to be woven , the sorting was done . If the pattern was intricate , it took days for the jewellery to be completed. Once it was made , the remaining pearls were stored in a white muslin cloth to prevent any damage ad the finished piece kept stored in velvet lined boxes. If not worn for sometime , the jewellery was aired , to preserve the luster of pearls , to prevent yellowing or discoloration , and also to prevent the string from fraying. Once in every few years the jewellery would be re-strung to prevent the loss of pearls by breakage of frayed threads. And after wearing , pearls always had to be carefully wiped with chamoise leather to wipe off perspiration which yellowed and damaged the pearls .
|Pearls, all shiny and lustrous after washing with soap nut solution|
It is now four years since she passed away but I still miss her and whenever I look at her pictures , I am reminded by the words of advice she gave me . Each time I write a post , I remember her love for jewellery . And the priceless advice she gave me .
She was no less than a Maharani in my eyes!