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Hill tribe silver jewelry from northern Thailand

- an article written by Susi at Jewelry Crossings


Hill tribe silver jewelry from northern Thailand, though hundreds of years old in its distinct design, works well accessorizing even the most up-to-date fashion trend. Hill tribe bracelets, for instance, can feel classic or contemporary or ethnic, depending upon their individual motif and design.


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Over 100 years ago, the Hilltribe peoples migrated south from China into what are now Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. The main profession of all these tribes is farming, and all of them tend to migrate whenever they feel that the soil at their present location is becoming depleted.

Approximately twenty distinct tribes of semi-nomadic peoples, collectively called hill tribes, live in the mountains along the Burmese and Laotian borders of northern Thailand. The largest and most prominent hill tribes are the H’mong, Akha, Lisu, Lahu, Meo, and Karen. Culturally the tribes are of interest because their relative isolation has enabled them to retain almost unchanged customs and traditions that go back centuries.

Each tribe is district, with its own culture, religion, language, art, and dress. With Thailand undergoing rapid modern development, it is difficult yet to say whether these tribes will continue in there traditional ways of life, or whether they will eventually be absorbed into the surrounding and ever more-encroaching Thai society.

A rich part of their cultural tradition is the making and wearing of silver jewelry. What once was a artistic skill honed in the tiny tribal villages in the mountains of northern Thailand now can be found produced in the factories of Thailand’s second largest city, Chang Mai. On Wualai Street in Chang Mai all manners of silver jewelry and silver objects are crafted. Intricate patterns of hill tribe-inspired designs—bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings—are hammered out by Thai silversmiths.

Aside from the work of the Chang Mai city artisans, a buyer of silver in northern Thailand can still purchase the less refined silverwork of the hill tribes.

Surprisingly enough, most hill tribes even today prefer silver to paper for money; the women usually wear their wealth in heavy chunky necklaces and earrings. Hill tribe jewelry purchased in northern Thailand is usually sold by the actual gram weight multiplied by the gram price of the day.

On the web site, www.jewelrycrossings.com, several beautiful designs of hill tribe bangles and bracelets are available in sterling silver. Intricate designs of woven or braided sterling as well as delicate sterling silver mesh work capture the spirit and essence of this ancient craft. You can also find authentic Thai baht chain necklaces made in polished sterling silver. The baht chains are available in four popular lengths: 16", 18", 24" and 30". The classic baht chain necklace is comprised of small rectangular links weighing a particular "baht" weight.

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