There are six main hill tribes in northern Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar) who are known for their lovely silver jewelry. One of the largest are the Karen. Half of Thailand's hill tribe people are the Karen. Their tribal lore tells of their ancestors crossing "a river of running sand". Many of them think this refers to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. If so, their ancestors left there many centuries ago.
|Image by Chrissy Olson|
Image by Jill Mitchell Silver jewelry is part of their culture. Young hill tribe women save their money to buy silver beads to add to their dowries.
The silver beads are all painstakingly hand crafted. Workshops in many of these villages are often wooden houses which could be on stilts. They work in an assembly line, each worker processing one stage.
As you can see from this video, there are no furnaces - the silver is melted down by torch. The molten metal is poured into a mold to form rods. These are then rolled into long strips using roller presses before moving on to be shaped and textured. It's mind boggling to see that every single tiny bead is created by hand. It`s yet another reason why Karen Hill Tribe silver is more expensive.
But it's worth it not just because the silver pieces are so beautiful. It helps keep their traditional crafts alive and enable the Karen to earn a living.
The women towards the end of the video have homemade rice powder face masks on - a traditional beauty treatment for blemishes, wrinkle banishment and to even out skin pigmentation.
While the above video shows the silver making steps clearly, I suspect the silver making station there is geared for tourists. Check out this video which shows a trip to a real Hill Tribe Silver Village. Such teamwork - the men using their foot pump operated torches!
More South East Asian Posts :
- The Brass Neck Coils of the Padaung Hill Tribe Women(subgroup of the Karen)
- Kalagas - Burmese Bead Embroidered Wall Hangings
- The Temple of the Emerald Buddha situated in the Grand Palace, Bangkok where I once visited
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips