Firozabad, known as the glass capital of India, is famous for the production of brightly colored traditional bangles. But the city is also the source of a hidden and extremely difficult to obtain treasure.
“He burned a sari (traditional clothing for women, in India, no) and from what was left, he handed us a piece of pure silver,” a local recounts a moment spent in Firozabad over 30 years ago.
The man who obtained the silver was not a magician at all, but a craftsman. Like all craftsmen in Forzabad, he went door to door and collected old saris to extract the precious metal from them.
Until 1990, this traditional garment was often woven with silver or pure gold threads. Therefore, the artisans were looking for something more than old clothes, they wanted the waste to get precious metals.
Bracelets that bring well-being and prosperity
Founded in 1354 by Firoz Shah Tuglaq, the Sultan of Delhi, Firozabad was built as a city-palace, which had a kind of grandeur of its own.
Today, the city’s streets are lined with stalls filled with colorful glass bracelets that glisten under the strong sun. Bangles hold a special place in Indian tradition, symbolizing prosperity and well-being. That is why many of the women in India can be seen wearing a large number of such jewelry on both hands.
And Firozabad earned the name “City of glass and bracelets” thanks to the approximately 150 factories, established around a craft that has a history of more than 200 years, informs BBC.
And since imports were banned after the two world wars, the glass industry in Firozabad experienced a fulminant evolution. After India gained independence in the year 1947, the city soon became the main supplier of glass and bangles in the entire state. Today, 70% of the entire glass production in the country is made here.
Garbage that contains gold
According to ancient tradition, bracelets produced in the city were decorated with gold leaf, and this meant that many utensils used during the manufacturing process came into contact with the precious metal – from the bottles and containers that contained the gold, to the wipers used to gloss and storage bins.
Later, the waste from the production of bracelets ended up in the city’s sewers, thus creating a secret source of wealth. And once collected and processed, the trash turns into nuggets of gold.
“For the uninitiated, scrap materials are just waste. But connoisseurs understand the true value of this rubbish,” said Mohammad Sultan, owner of a jewelery shop.
“It takes a lot of patience to learn the craft”
Mohammad himself has been engaged in gold mining for 25 years and explained that the profession is still known today only by a handful of craftsmen.
“It takes a lot of patience to learn the craft and by no means is it learned in a week,” he added.
Consistency pays off: many have become millionaires after mastering the method. But the gold has gradually disappeared over the years, and now the bracelets are polished with other chemicals. Even under these conditions, bracelets decorated with gold thread can still be found along the streets of Firozabad.