Bidriware is the most well known of Andhra’s handicrafts – a metal craft that derives its name from ‘Bidar’, the hometown of this exquisite craft. It is an art of inlaying silver on black metal and it is believed that this ancient and eye-catching craft entered India more than 4000 years ago from the culture-rich Persians, Syrians and Iranians. If one were to believe the craftsmen themselves, they say that the art originated in Iran seven centuries ago. It was brought down by migrants.
There are four main stages in the manufacture of Bidri. They are casting, engraving, inlaying and oxidising.
Behind the breathtaking beauty of Bidri lies hours of painstaking effort by the artisan. The original technique involved the inlaying of gold or silver on a steel or copper base. This method had its origins in Persia. However, the metal used for the base today is an alloy of zinc and copper because zinc gives the alloy a deep black color. It is engraved or overlaid with silver or brass. After casting and moulding, the surface is filed smooth till it acquires the typical Bidri sheen. It is then temporarily blackened with copper sulphate solution and etched into a traditional design using a sharp iron tool.
The designs are traced by hand, by the craftsmen with the help of chisels. Next, pure silver wire or sheet (gold in rare cases) is hammered into the grooves of the design and the surface smoothened with the help of a buffing machine. In the ultimate interesting stage, the articles are heated gently and treated with a solution of sal-ammoniac and earth taken from old fort buildings which has the effect of making the entire surface turn jet black providing a distinct contrast to the shining silver inlay.
Typical Bidri items include plates, bowls, vases, ashtrays, trinket boxes, huqqa bases, jewellery etc. Glass and studded bangles of Bidri are a favourite with women.