Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hill Tribe Silver

  Hill tribe silver necklaces are here!  I actually made these last week, but couldn't get any decent sunlight for photographing.  (It's the time of year when farmers burn the rice paddies after harvesting, so often the sky is just a dull white haze from the smoke.)  But finally, we got some sunshine, so 3 new necklaces of hill tribe silver are now made, photographed and just added to my shop.  Here's a little preview.

 Aqua "Om"
available here:

Clarity Lotus
available here:

  Aqua Lotus
available here:

 Who makes this "hill tribe" silver?

  The more traditional ethnic populations in Asia are often referred to as “hill tribes” because most reside in mountainous, densely forested, and remote regions.  Of the twenty hill tribes residing in Thailand and Burma today, the Karen tribe is the largest.  After migrating from Tibet in the 12th century, they primarily resided in Burma for centuries, comprising 7% of the Burmese population.  However, over the last few decades, they have been increasingly persecuted and marginalized, so many have begun to seek refuge in Thailand.

Karen village in western Thailand near Burmese border
 Originally, there was not actually just one Karen tribe but many loosely related heterogeneous populations with varying dialects, religions, customs, styles of dress, etc.  However, due to disenfranchisement, these sub-groups have sought to unify in recent decades in order to gain greater recognition from the Burmese government.


 Though they are skillful metallurgists, artisans and weavers, they are predominantly farmers and live in remote villages. Their houses are made of teak or bamboo and are usually constructed on stilts to protect from flooding in the rainy season and to serve as shelter for livestock. The Karen villagers have few possessions and little if any furniture, usually sleeping on floor mats, cooking on open fires, and collecting drinking and washing water from a nearby river. 

 Today, the Karen people face a variety of problems including poverty, disease, discrimination, loss of culture and a lack of opportunities.

What makes Karen hill tribe silver so special?

 Karen silver actually has a higher silver content than Sterling silver.  Karen silver is between 99.5% and 99.9% pure silver.  It's just the solder used to fuse the silver components together that makes up the last fractions of a percent. Therefore, Karen silver is of exceptional quality and has a unique color and feel to it.

 But perhaps even better than that, every piece is handmade and individual. Created in simple forges, the pieces are hammered by hand, and then decorated by chasing (i.e. etching) or using hand-carved stamps and moulds.

 How you help…

  Through the support of their artisan crafts, we give vitality and opportunity to the Karen people.  Not only does your purchase from Lotus and Lace Boutique contribute to my Karen suppliers, but I also give 10% of profits to UNHCR Thailand, a charitable organization aiding Karen refugees in Thailand.

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