The craft of Bidriware originated in Bidar in Karnataka during the reign of the Bahamani rulers. It later spread to various parts of the country but currently it is in existence only in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It can be safely said without any fear of triggering a debate that the best quality of Bidriware is presently produced in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.
The Bidriware craft is indeed an exquisite craft. Bidri craftsmen need to possess not just skill and patience but a lot of creativity as well so that they can bring into existence by artistic means beautiful designs of shining silver on a dull black background. The Mughals are credited with patronizing Bidriware in this country.
Bidriware is divided into three different forms. The distinction is on the basis of the depth of embedding and the quality of metal. The deeply cut work is referred to as Nashan, the raised work is referred to as Zar Nashan and the wire inlay work is better known as Tarkashi.
An alloy of zinc and copper serves as the main raw material of Bidriware. This alloy is referred to as white alloy because the proportion of copper that is mixed in the alloy is very little as compared to zinc. The reason behind this unequal proportion is to produce the right base which can be turned to deep black in the final oxidization process.
There are several processes that are involved in the Bidriware craft. The designing stage which follows the sand casting and the filling stage is however the one that requires exceptional skills. After drawing the designs free hand, they are engraved by the artists with the help of steel chisels. Then it is time for the intricate process of inlaying silver into those engravings. When it is complete, the entire surface takes the color of silver and it becomes very difficult to comprehend the designs. So a particular variety of sand is mixed with sal ammoniac and applied on the surface. The surface then turns black and the silver designs gain prominency.
A vast array of articles which includes vases, ashtrays, candle stands, trays, boxes and buttons are the products of Bidriware. One is very impressed to see the various designs ranging from flowers and leaves to geometrical figures in beautiful silver set against a very dark backdrop. Bidriware is a time consuming craft but one which impresses everyone.