Modern Bead Making In India
In 2001 I asked Rosh Hashem a third generation gem dealer that lives in Mumbai India, if it was possible to send some pictures of bead making and production? In addition, could he tell me about the workers, their history family, etc? Pictures of buildings, equipment, and any type of bead related pictures that he could think of. Of course, I offered to pay for any film costs, involved
To my delight Rosh wrote back and said, “I’m planning on a tour of ‘factories’ where they do beads in agate stones. I am planning on a visit on 8th-9th September, I’ll take photographs on my digital camera, and forward you by email with requested details of workers and history.”
Jerry: Rosh these pictures are Brilliant! These are exactly what I wanted.
Rosh: Glad you think I can be a good photographer. My wife says I’m very bad at picture taking.
Jerry: Where does the rough come from?
Rosh: Rough material comes from places around Jalna and Aurangabad in Maharashtra state, where the famous Ajanta and Ellora caves are located, from Jagadia in Gujrat state, from Hyderabad region (where Golconda mines and Fort is located and Kohinoor was mined here) and also Kangyam and Karur region in Tamil Nadu state.
Jerry: Where is this factory located?
Rosh: These pictures were taken at a factory 550 kms or 300 miles from Bombay, very near Bhuj where the devastating earthquake was felt on 26th Jan. Name of the place is Khambhat (pronounced Cambay) . A sleepy little ‘cow town’, Agate cutting and polishing is the cottage industry here and the main source of livelihood. Incidentally, I was born here and still have ancestral properties.
Jerry: There is always concern that beads are be produced using child labor or sweatshop conditions
Rosh: Most people work in their homes. Many of the cutters and stringing are farmers that work the beads as a family.
Cooking chalcedony in earthen pots to get red carnelian
Home Made Bead Tumblers
Rosh: In 1977, I was approached by one of the biggest industrial houses in India. They wanted to get into all aspects of gemstones. They planned to put up the most modern factories, importing latest equipment and even taking care of health hazards faced by cutters at present. Shockingly, almost 90% of the cutters declined to work in an organized, modern factory and give up their almost primitive ways of working!
Jerry: How long does it take to make beads from start to finish? Example: How long to Perform, Tumble, Grind and Drill?
Rosh: This is a tricky question. If we had an answer, we would be the largest and best manufacturer of beads in the world!
Different processes are done by different factories. There are no lead times and delivery schedules here. The cutters work according to their mood. Sometimes they may work continuously for 2-3 days and then take off for a week or so. Most cutters take advanced payment and we are at their mercy. On an average, it may take a month to get 5000 strands.
Rosh Hashem has been serving International trade since 1996 with production and supplies of fashion accessories like beaded jewelry and printed stoles as also handicraft products like agate stones tumbled, pyramids, massagers, healing wands, pendulums, etc. as also soapstone items – undercut animal figures, boxes, oil diffusers, etc.