Southeast Asian Bead Circle On-line Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 1
Gold Beadmaking at Ban Muang Kaew, Thailand
by Bucklee Bell
In the last few years I have noticed beautiful gold beads incorporated into the jewelry sold by some of the gold dealers in Chaing Mai, Thailand. Usually the beads are strung on a chain of braided gold wire and have a diameter of 4 mm or more. The beads are manufactured by several methods. Some are cast, some made with wires bent into a variety of shapes and soldered together, others are filigree, granulated or enameled by the cloisonné method with striking blue, red and green colors.
I have been told that they are modeled after the Sukhothai style, which dates to the fourteenth century. However, I have not been able to corroborate this.
I visited the shop of Chang Sunan, who understands a little English and was patient with my imperfect Thai. According to him, around 1986 a Mr. Sakorn of Moo Ban Si Nakorn (a nearby village) returned to Si Satchanalai after having learned the art of goldsmithing in Chiang Mai. He introduced a new style of goldmaking to the local crafts community, based on Sukhotai models. At first, business was slow,
but around 1991 many new factories were opened. Today a large amount of jewelry is being made for the Thai market and for export.
Most shops have their factories on the premises, so one can watch the goldsmiths at work. Some of the shops advertise that their gold is 99.99% pure, but Mr. Sunan has said that some of them are selling less pure gold (92% to 96%). In fact, most gold sold in Thailand is 23K or 96.5% gold, the minimum recognized by the Ministry of Industry as being standard gold. Pure gold (24K, 99.99%) has been sold only by a few outlets since 1991; as of 1995 these shops accounted for only 5% of total gold sales [Parivudhiphongs 1991].
The Southeast Asia Bead Circle is interested in information on ancient gold and silver beadmaking in Thailand to compare with the modern product. Please contact us.
Parivudhiphongs, Alongkorn 1991 All that glitters... Bangkok Post L(282)/9 October, pp. 33, 40.
The Southeast Asia Bead Circle is interested in information on ancient gold and silver beadmaking in Thailand to compare with the modern product. Please contact us if you own or know about any examples in Museums.
In particular, we are interested in knowing whether the present work was, indeed, inspired by Sukhotai jewelry making.
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