Siamese jewelry – silver exotic
Among the vintage jewelry there are exotic items with the image of a woman in traditional Thai costume on the background of niello. We tell you about their interesting history in this piece!
This kind of silver jewelry has been made in Siam since the 1930s and gained popularity 20-30 years later. The country was renamed several times first as Thailand, then again as Siam, and then as Thailand again in 1949. Despite these changes, silver jewelry with traditional niello has stuck to the name of Siam silver. Nielloware (or Nielloware) is a special black mixture of lead, copper and silver that is used for inlaying on engraved silver.
It is believed that the popularization of Siamese silver in the mid-twentieth century contributed to the American soldiers who bought this jewelry in Thailand as souvenirs for gifts. Gradually, these items have become a kind of trend and even collectors’ items.
The pieces are marked with “Siam”, “Siam sterling” or “Siam Niello. As a rule, the jewelry is made of sterling silver 925. The collection value is primarily represented by pieces with patterns on the background of niello. However, some Siamese pieces of silver are also available in colored enamel, such as green, blue, red and white. At the same time, the motifs of the patterns remain the same.
Tradition subjects are characters and scenes from Buddhist and Hindu fairy tales or religious texts. Sometimes there are images of buildings and animals.
What is Siamese nielloing
Nielloing is a technique using a special black paint with a special composition that includes lead, copper, silver and other components. The exact recipe has been jealously kept secret for over 3,000 years. It is difficult to say for sure where exactly such a mixture was first invented and used – in Egypt, Cyprus, Syria or elsewhere.
Niello is similar to amalgam or metal alloy than to real enamel. The term “Niello” itself is of Latin origin (from the Latin Nigellus, black).
To make a piece of jewelry, the master carves a metal billet, with a carved image. Its borders should rise above the general background. Deeper areas are filled with a mixture of niello and baked in a special oven until solid. The image is then refined by hand, detailed and polished. The niello technique creates detailed images even on small items.
Stories and Plots of Siamese Silver
A frequent subject on Siamese jewelry is Meccala, the Goddess of Lightning and Ramasun, the God of Thunder. They are mythical characters in the myth of the origin of thunder and lightning, which is often told to Thai children.
This legend tells of how Ramasun fell in love with the beautiful Makkala, but she did not reciprocate. In a fit of rage, Ramasun threw an axe at her to wound her and take her by force. But Makkala proved capable of defending herself with a magical crystal ball. Ramasun’s axe struck the crystal ball, and at that moment a bright flash of light erupted – so lightning appeared. Defeated, Ramasun created darkness and rain to hide in and continue to pursue his chosen one. It is believed that to this day Ramasun waits for Makkala, and when she appears, he hurls his axe at her again and again. Each time the crystal ball hits, the sky lights up with lightning.
This story is so popular in the region that twice major tropical storms have been named after Ramasun, in 2002 and 2008.
Collecting Siamese Silver
Siamese silver objects attract collectors and lovers of unusual jewelry not only by design, but also by the myths they carry with them. Their mystical symbolism is also valuable. This expressive and unremarkable jewelry is a fairy tale to wear.
The brooch with the image of Meccala, the lightning-thrower, is a good start of the collection. They have quite a selection of decorations and designs. Earrings, pendants and bracelets will already provide more hassle and expense, but the excitement is worth it! Necklaces, rings, frame bracelets and all sorts of accessories – snuff-boxes, powder-boxes, cigarette cases – are more rare and expensive, but valuable.
The price of Siamese silver varies greatly. The price is affected by the type of jewelry, size, condition, age, and subject depicted. Despite the fact that jewelry with nielloed are more common than colored enamel, they are valued by collectors more.