A Silver Lining for Tribal Heritage
Thailand’s northern hills are home to many different ethnic minorities, known locally as chao kaow (hilltribes), migrants over the past 150 years. Among these tribes, the Mien (Yao) came from southern China while the Karen (Kariang) originated in Myanmar. Although culturally different, both groups developed fine skills in silver jewellery by melting down the coins of past colonial powers to display their wealth and status to others. Traditionally, young men would show their skill and creativity in silver to impress prospective brides.
The Mien, known for the women’s red collar ruffs and densely embroidered pants, are master silversmiths. Today, many women also learn the craft for income generation. Their handmade jewellery is for everyday use, such as earrings, and also for elaborate bridal necklaces during marriage ceremonies. ThaiCraft’s products are those made mainly for Mien communities themselves, when highest quality in craft and
metal purity is paramount. A few pieces are brightly coloured with enamel.
For the Karen, their jewellery is delicate and quite simple in style, blending well with their natural surroundings as well as with their costumes of handwoven cotton, natural dyes and simple, ethnic patterns and motifs. ThaiCraft’s designers work closely with silversmiths to create new jewellery ideas based on the Karen’s traditions and techniques, which have changed little over the years.