Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |  Volume 6, Issue 22, Tuesday, May 31, 2011





Diamonds are said to be every girl's best friend while gold is perhaps a favourite of Bangladeshi women when it comes to jewellery. Women here have always considered gold, but recently diamonds are also being increasingly opted for as more and more diamond shops are sprouting around the city. However, gold and diamonds can be a little too extravagant for some and there is another option that is not as popular as the aforementioned ones yet is a perfect choice for adding an elegant touch to one's outfit -- pearls.

Although all pearls are not as precious as gold or diamonds, there are some which are almost as expensive or maybe more, yet their demand is not as widespread in our country as it is in a lot of other countries.

Bangladesh's pink pearls are known to be among the most unique in the world and are exclusively available in this South Asian region. These pearls are quite tiny in size and are generally expensive; these are found along the coast in Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Maheshkhali and St Martin's. Other renowned places for pearls are Australia for its black pearl, Japan for its Mikimoto pearls and off-white pearls found in the Arabian sea.

Most of the pearls that one usually comes across are not natural pearls; natural pearls being those that form without human intervention when a foreign particle accidentally enters an oyster. Good quality natural pearls are extremely rare to come across as they usually form by accident. However, if one does come across a good quality one it can be pretty expensive according to its colour, size, lustre, iridescence and other factors.

Cultured pearls are the ones that we generally see made into jewellery. These are mass produced in many different countries. Artificial pearls are also available in the market. Artificial pearls should not be confused with cultured pearls as these are not produced from living oysters or mussels. These are processed in factories from plastic or glass and made in a way so as to imitate the shine of natural pearls.

One method for distinguishing between artificial and natural or cultured pearls is to rub two pearls against each other. Artificial pearls tend to be smooth but natural and cultured pearls tend to be slightly coarse.

Pearls form in many different colours with white, off-white, pink and black being the most common. However, there are some natural pearls that take on colours like blue, green and even purple, but, to come across plenty of the same shades of these rare ones is quite impossible. Pearls are often dyed with desired colours.

Pearls are not only limited to jewellery anymore. They are stitched onto clothes and are also used in cosmetics. Although the pearl is not as sought after as gold or diamond the younger generation of girls could certainly make it more common to the eyes by maybe sporting pearl jewellery at parties and hangouts when other precious stones would be too flashy.

Stringed together in different types of necklaces, bracelets and ear-rings these beauties are available widely across the city; however, the majority of customers who purchase them are mostly foreign expatriates or visitors to Bangladesh.

Gulshan-2 market itself houses four to five pearl shops and so does Navana Tower. Perhaps one of the oldest pearl stores is Pearl Paradise which has been bringing pearl jewellery to its customers since 1959 and boasts a huge collection of pearls. Another place which has always been the first shop to come into one's mind when thinking about pearls is Aarong. They offer a wide variety of pearl jewellery and the designs are to die for.

Fill in your jewellery box with more and more pieces of jewellery made from pearls and you will be spoiled for choice when picking out jewellery for an occasion be it a birthday party, a formal evening, a ladies' lunch, a wedding or just a casual get together.

By Karishma Ameen


Precious pearls

Maheen Khan
Fashion designer, Mayasir

These have been a source of fascination for centuries. They are considered the most magical and feminine of all gems and are the only ones made by living organisms.

Pearls emanate a certain glow not found in other gems due to their unique formation. They are found in pearl oysters but the origin of how it actually came to being mystified humans for ages. It was not until the early twentieth century did scientists discover the connection between oyster pearls and parasites.

In simple terms pearls are formed when a foreign body such as a grain of sand or a parasite enters an oyster and as a reflex the oyster begins to coat the irritant with layer upon layer of pearly substance known as 'nacre' that gives the pearl its appearance of iridescent beauty and leads to the birth of natural pearls.

Cultured pearls are created with human intervention. An irritant is placed manually inside the oyster to create a pearl that turns out every bit as natural as one that originated sans intervention.

Since ancient times pearls were considered a precious gem. In South-Asia including the regions of Bengal, pearls were worn as a declaration of wealth and power. It was also used as a talisman to bring good fortune, to ward of evil spirits and to cure illnesses. Pearls were symbols of purity, chastity and feminine charm.

Bangladesh is famous for its natural pink pearls. Our local variants are one of a kind, extraordinary and unparalleled by any other pearl in South Asia. These are not cultured and are harvested from the fresh water rivers and lakes. The river gypsies collect them from shells that are later crushed for lime, an ingredient for chewing betel leaf. Today, however Bangladeshi natural pearls are only occasionally found and have become quite rare.

Pearls set in gold
Traditionally pearls were only set in gold with varied coloured stones. This jewellery is known as 'jarwa' or 'naoraton' in Bengali and is an age-old tradition in Bangladesh. Long before cultured pearls were readily available, natural pearls were used to enhance jewellery. Set with 'naboratno' or nine kinds of gems, the designs emulated Victorian styles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Rarely did we find pearls set alone, as they were also considered very precious.

These designs were elegant and fashioned in delicate styles. Dainty in appearance, 'jarwa' was extremely wearable. Today, however, with the decline in craftsmanship styles jewellery designs have gone through modification and are altered to meet modern demands. They are heavier and much bolder in impression and lack the élan of their original artistry.

Avant-garde pearl jewellery in silver
Over the past two decades our market got flooded with cultured pearls from China. These multifarious pearls are very reasonably priced and within the reach of most buyers.

In Bangladesh designers began to experiment using pearls set in silver. Necklaces, lockets, earrings are now available in wide ranging exhaustive variations that come in oriental, modern and avant-garde styles that mirror very contemporary trends, particularly when combined with oxidised silver. Semi-precious stones also work well with pearls like tourmaline, golden sapphires and amethysts. Pearls can be the focal element or the trimming embellishment.

Classic strings of pearl
In most cultures, the time-honoured jewelleries of the royalties were the multi-strings of pearls adorned like garlands around the necklines. Pearls were so precious that they were only fit for royalty. This was of course a long time ago and is not relevant anymore.

Pearls look best in single, strings of three, five or seven -- always in odd and never in even numbers. Single strings look good in pearls of all sizes while multiple string ones look good in medium and small-sized pearls.

Beads of gold or silver may be added in between the pearls to build unique characteristics. There are no rules but if the beads are smaller than the pearls it works better. Lockets and other attachments can be added to the strings to lend simplicity to the most complex designs.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to The Leather House and Bangladesh Pearl, Gulshan-2 Supermarket


Come have a seat

Life in the metropolis drains its inhabitants of the zeal of living. But occasionally the flavours of existence are restored through social interactions and family gatherings. A Friday evening spent with the cousins, in the comfort of one's living room, shunning the lure of taking the warm gossip outside to some restaurant or fast food joint is one of the many ways to rejuvenate oneself and battling the work at hand in the coming week.

Making arrangements for comfortable seating is a must for they are an integral part of the whole affair. Although sofas may serve the purpose but a seasoned mistress-of-the house often prefers to make other plans. Out comes the shatranji (floor mat) from the closet, the shital paati, colourful moras or cane stools.

There has been a wane in popularity of traditional jute shatranjis. Floor mats are now widely used in its synthetic form, often imported from China. These, however, come in bright colours and various designs. Also available are carpets made from woollen materials, suitable for the winter season, which in the last few years have been biting cold. However, this is not to say that the jute variants are altogether extinct. Their natural fibres are an added attraction now since the outcry for natural products is all the rage. These are usually made by rural women of the Northern districts of the country.

Synthetic floor mats are available in almost every shopping complex of the city. Starting from Tk250, the price of a mat can go up to Tk2000. Although some prefer to maintain a room-size carpet most opt for a make-shift seating arrangement in the form of shatranjis keeping the weather in mind.

The use of shital paati is now rare in the urban setting but retains its popularity in pastoral Bangladesh. Made from the murta plant grown near water-bodies mostly in Sylhet and Noakhali regions, these are made in a warp and weft weave and are known for its feature of reflecting heat in the cruel days of summer. In the villages, these are often placed on the bed under the bed covers to keep the sleeping arrangement cool. Sometimes taken out in the open under the shade of trees, children gather to hear stories of knights and princesses from their elderly grannies. Set in the open, under the shade of the night, inquisitive minds gaze at the stars as the stars themselves look down upon them.

Shifting to the urban scene, rural crafts and practices are gaining popularity every day. However, the demand for shital paatis is still not great enough to be marketed in the metropolis on a large scale. Their availability is scanty and when found does not tax the wallet by more than Tk500. The price invariably varies with the size of the mat and can be quite high as the indigenous raw materials are no longer aplenty.

If you are not too keen on seating arrangements on the floor, there is always the mora -- a sort of stool once made from canes but now being replaced by plastic. These synthetic products have now not only infiltrated our urban households but also the rural setting. Due to the growing cost of cane cultivation, the price of moras has increased, paving the way for the low cost synthetic versions.

Plastic moras are light, and are easily moveable. These stools can be found in a wide range of colours and their designs are quite attractive. They are also water-resistant, which means that you can place them outside to make your garden livelier. If you want a tete-e-tete with the bhabi next door, just take one of these to the rooftop and the scene is set for a lively neighbourhood gossip.

Plastic moras are available in all shopping centres and the bazaars in your locality. They are also carried by peddlers, hawking from one neighbourhood to another. Prices of these range from Tk250 to Tk400.

Now that you are all set to call people for a chat, just pick up the cell phone, let the text messages fly as you play host to a cosy day on a lazy summer afternoon.

By Mahtabi Zaman
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2011 The Daily Star