“Afzal Miyan will do a fabric for you that has a specific kind of stone or bead that you need and that can be matched perfectly by a bangle seller three shops down,” she said. “So you get this perfectly synchronous set of clothes and bangles and jewelry that looks as if it’s all been made together, but it isn’t. It’s just craftsmen who have, over hundreds of years, perfected and made their tasks synchronous.”
People I asked have different takes on the history of Laad Bazaar, but a popular origin story, recorded on a placard at the Charminar, dates it to the late 16th century. It says the Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, founder of Hyderabad, established the market for the wedding of his daughter; the tangle of bangle shops came later. Laad means lacquer: Hence the name of the market, where there are an estimated 200 shops dedicated to the bracelets.
The bangles are handmade by artisans in nearby workshops, and Mohammed Zubair, owner of Khaja Bangles and Jewellers, explained the process to me. Lacquer comes from resin, which is melted over a furnace and molded into a circle, then embellished with crystals, beads or mirrors.
“We’re famous in the whole world,” he told me, listing the destinations he’s traveled to for exhibitions, including Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. His shop is now working on a set in honor of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, whose mother was Indian, which will include an American flag and an Indian one.
The intricacy of the patterns the artisans etch out of crystals is remarkable, and the palettes and designs seem to evolve with every visit.
“I’ve gone to one of the stores and been like, ‘Can you make this pattern for me?,’ and they’ve told me, ‘We can make your face if we want,” said Suhani Pittie, a designer, who in one piece mixed lac with imitation leather to create a modern look in black and white. “They’re vociferously trying to understand their target audience and modulating their designs.”