The Bidri Art Story
Bidri Art is the most unique and prized metalware in India. Its striking pure silver inlay artwork and blackened alloy body; a result of the unique soil from Bidar, has made it one of India’s most important handicraft exports.
Bidri Art got its name from the township of Bidar in Karnataka, India. It originated as a 14th Century craft, developed during the Bahmani Empire from a blend of Turkish, Persian and Arabic styles. For centuries, it was patronized by kings and royalty. Today it is prized as a symbol of wealth in homes across the world.
The Tedious Process of Crafting Bidri Art
The process of making Bidri Art is very time consuming as it is entirely done by hand. Each Bidri piece is cast separately. The basic material used is an alloy of 94% zinc and 6% copper. The molten metal alloy is poured into a mold formed from soil made malleable with castor oil and resin.
The cast piece is filed and smoothed by hand before coated with copper sulphate. This gives it a temporary black coating over which intricate designs and free-hand patterns are etched out with a metal stylus.
The craftsman then hammers the fine silver wire and sheeting into the engraved area. Upon buffing and smoothed, the entire piece including the silver inlay, now glows silvery white evenly.
The final step is to make the surface permanently black so that the silver inlay design will stand out in bright contrast against the dark background. For this, a special variety of soil which is available only in the unlit portions of the Bidar fort is required. A paste form from the mixture of special soil, ammonium chloride and water is rubbed onto the heated Bidri pieces. It darkens the body of the piece, but has no effect on the silver inlay.
Once the paste is rinsed off, the fine and beauteous design of shining silver resplendent against the matt black surface is revealed. As a finishing touch, oil is applied to the finished product to deepen the matt coating.
-The town of Bidar is the chief centre for crafting Bidri ware and has received Geographical Indications (GI) certificate.
-Only 99% pure silver is used to make bidri products as it doesn’t lose its lustre with oxidisation.
-Bidri artisans feel that the soil from the ruins of the Bidar fort has been kept away from the sunlight and rain for hundreds of years and therefore has great oxidizing properties.
-The soil is tasted by the artisans with their tongues before deciding whether it is of use. A skill that comes from experience and is passed on generation to generation.
With proper maintenance, Bidri Art pieces can be kept bright and beautiful indefinitely. Water will not harm your Bidri Art piece but exposure to certain harsh chemicals or environments however may result in compromising its integrity. This includes, but is not limited to the following: perspiration, perfumes, cleaning agents, chlorine, soap and salt water.
Cleaning your Bidri Art
A silver-polishing cloth is a great tool to make the pure silver on your Bidri Art pieces shine again if they have become dull. You can use silver polish to shine the silver inlay. Then rub pure vegetable oil over the entire surface. A soft toothbrush is also ideal for cleaning Bidri Art pieces with intricate details, which can otherwise be difficult to clean.
Exclusively at Thinges
Limited Bidri Art pieces are currently available in Singapore exclusively through a collaboration between Thinges and Artisan Guild (India). Leave us your contact for the pricing or a private viewing of the available Bidri Art pieces.