After a long day of work and our time in Bangladesh slowly running out, a few of my co-interns wanted to go shopping for gifts, keepsakes, and souvenirs. Having watched a program on Bangladesh right before I came here (thank you for recording, Grandma) I had a deep desire to purchase Bangladeshi pearls. I have never bought nice jewelry for myself, so I had no idea where to begin guessing the price. My only reference was a $200 pair of Tiffany pearl earrings a dear friend from college owns.
My friends conceded to hit the pearl market before going to Aarong (the clothing and handicrafts store), and they have me to thank. We proceeded to spend an hour and half digging through all the pearl jewelry in the market. Because of the odd shapes and sizes, we knew these pearls were authentic; their imperfections made them even more alluring. When I found a pair of classic white pearl earrings, I asked, “How much?” Upon hearing “100 taka,” I stared, dumfounded, into the salesman's eyes. That’s about $1.25 for a pair of real pearl earrings. Now you’re probably thinking, "Poor Carmen is so naïve. She just got completely ripped off." The truth is, pearls are so abundant in Bangladesh that they cannot sell them for exorbitant prices. Also, the metal they use for the pendants, brooches, rings, bracelets and earrings is extremely cheap, giving the final product less value. But, when you’re an American girl faced with real pearl earrings for $1.25, it’s hard to fuss about silver quality. In fact, I even bargained for a lesser price. Shameless, I know.
Five of us interns celebrated our retail victory over Indian food. The salesmen also seemed pleased as we left, hoping we would tell our friends about our newfound treasures but not about how much we paid. I have to admit, until this experience, I had never really enjoyed shopping for fine jewelry. As someone with more colorful, whimsical fashion tastes, I have not grown into the elegance and simplicity of showcase jewelry. However, this experience was incredible! Maybe it was the affordability that made it more fun. Who knew that I would find a love for jewelry shopping in Bangladesh. One thing is for sure, I will never be able to buy pearls anywhere else in my life.