The craft Bidri gets its name from the town Bidar in the north-eastern part of Karnataka. The craft originated in ancient Persia (in 14th-15th century, considered as a mix of Turkey, Persia and Arabic countries) and was brought to India during the Bahamani rule in Bidar. While in Persia, gold and silver was inlayed on steel or copper, in Bidri work, zinc is the primary metal used.
The process of Bidri can be divided into casting and inlaying. A mix of soil, castor oil and resin is used to prepare a mould. In this, molten metal alloy of zinc and copper is poured. Depending on the product design, different metal casted pieces may need to be welded together to form one single product. Inlaying work is done by silver, brass or copper sheet or wire.
The most interesting and almost magical stage of this craft is the grand finale, the blackening process. For this a special variety of soil which is available only in the unlit portions of the Bidar Fort is used. It is said that the soil of the Bidar Fort is very special. Some artisans feel that the soil is away from the sunlight and rain for years and therefore it has great oxidizing properties. Another interesting fact is that the quality of the soil is tested, by tasting it. The soil is now mixed with ammonium chloride and water to produce a paste which is then brought to a boil and the Bidriware is dropped into this bubbling liquid and magic happens when the paste selectively darkens the body while it has no effect on the silver, brass and copper inlay.
Zola’s Bidri workshop has been really fascinating on many levels; from mapping and drawing inspiration for each piece from Mughal architecture across the country to trying out new design ideas and techniques with Bidri that haven’t been done before. Zola India’s exclusive collection of Bidri jewellery is inspired from floral and geometrical motifs of existing Turkish and Mughal architecture across India.
“When you wear Zola, you wear a piece of history, culture and the innumerable stories of the artisans who create our jewelry. You wear a piece of earth.”