INTRODUCTION: The ancient art of handcrafted silverware is becoming a dying industry in Thailand. For?
INTRODUCTION: The ancient art of handcrafted silverware is becoming a dying industry in Thailand. For centuries, handmade silver works have played an integral part in the country's religious and social ceremonies.
SYNOPSIS: Today the people of Thailand use silverware on certain religious occasions. At some Buddhist temples, people carry rice to the monks in silver bowls at the start of each day. During wedding ceremonies, guests bless the new couple by pouring water on them from these sacred silver bowls. There are three silver factories and approximately 100 silverware shops in Chiengmai, a suburban village about 450 miles (750 kms) north of Bangkok. In spite of this, the silverware trade is gradually dying out. The craftsmen do not produce enough good to make a living and they receive only 10 percent of the cost of the items they make.
These delicate silver bowl could be used for practical purposes. However, nowadays they are far too previous, and are mainly bought for decorative purposes only. Specialised craftsman carefully engrave intricate designs on each of the bowls. Most of the designs either represent Buddhist mythology or the simple folklore of the local villagers. The silversmith uses all his skill and imagination, cultivated over the years, to achieve these splendid works of art. He relies only on his hands and simple tools. No machinery is involved.
A large bowl weighing one and a half killogrammes (3.3. pounds) takes one week to complete. A smaller one requires at least thee or four days work.
The purchasing of the raw materials is also a very involved process. Most of the raw materials are bought from local tribes who live the hills. The price of the silverware varies of course, according to the silver content. A large bowl of pure silver can fetch up to 5,000 U.S. dollars. In spite of this, the time and effort required to produce a single item is making it less and less worthwhile to continue this ancient craft.