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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Earthy and Elegant Necklace


I wanted to post my newest necklace creation...Trinidad - smokey quartz, spiney oyster shell, faceted turquoise briolettes, Hill Tribe silver charms & toggle clasp. This will soon be available for sale on my jewelry website http://www.fiveoclocksomewhere.us/. I am including information about the Thai Karen Hill Tribe . I love to use their components in my jewelry.
The Karen (or Kariang) People, along with other hill tribe minority groups, first appeared in northern Thailand between two and three hundred years ago. They are a relatively recent addition to the ethnic and cultural mix compared to Thailand's 800-year history. It is believed that they originated in Tibet or southern China. Racial memories and oral traditions about bitter cold could possibly place their origins as far away as Mongolia and the Gobi Desert. The Karen People lived a semi-nomadic life, migrating about once every seven years after exhausting the land with their swidden (slash and burn) style agriculture, which some groups continue to practice today. The Karen are not a single hill tribe, but a collection of related tribes with similar lifestyles, customs, and languages. The known Karen groups can be roughly divided into four groups: The Sgaw, the Pwo, the Kayah or Red Karen, and the Paduang. Most picture long-necked women with brass rings or coils supporting their heads when Karen Hill Tribe is mentioned, but this practice is limited to the Paduang, one of the smaller tribes.In the 1920s and 1930s, the Kuomintang recruited various hill tribe groups, including Karen People, to raise cash crops, specifically opium poppies, to generate funds for the Chinese government-in-exile. The practice proved so lucrative that many hill tribe groups continued to produce opium and heroin even after the Kuomintang abandoned them.In 1969, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej launched the Thai Royal Project, with the aim of transforming hill tribe economy from one based on illicit drugs to one based on food agriculture and handicrafts. The project has been very successful and has significantly reduced the number of opium fields remaining in northern Thailand. The Karen were very fortunate and received the art of silversmithing. As part of the Royal Project, skilled jewelers were sent into Karen villages and taught the first generation of Thai Karen silver jewelry artists. These techniques were passed down the generations and now, they are so successful that the world of wholesale hill tribe silver begins and ends with the Karen hill tribes involved with the Project. Each piece is hand made and unique. Even where a mold is used, the silver is still poured or hammered by hand. All kinds of silver products are manufactured by the Karen: silver beads, rings, earrings, bracelets and relief art. Karen hill tribe silver is categorized as fine silver, being 95% to 99% silver content, whereas sterling silver contains 92.5%. Karen silver beads are the most popular Thai silver item sold or purchased. The silver beads come in various sizes and designs, and can be used to make bracelets and necklaces, or sewn onto clothing in the manner of Karen traditional dress. Regardless, each piece of silver jewelry sold, whether a set of silver beads or a Thai Karen silver ring, benefits the tribe as a whole and sustains them without having to resort to opium cultivation.

1 comments:

Richard said...

Interesting fact silver made in Thailand is only made in villages outside of the main cities by Hilltribe families. Most patterns have been in there family for many years and can only be made by large order. There are no stores or one central place to purchase Hilltribe silver in variety other than from the large wholesale shops in the city. Mondays and Fridays are the days families will bring their goods to the main shops for sale and to pick up new orders. A trip to a silver village is a real eye opener to see how families work together to make beautiful silver pieces of art. All Handmade.
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