Siam silver is a style of silver jewellery usually with niello décor, although brightly coloured or white enamel is also seen.
We have previously discussed the technique of niello décor CLICK HERE to read more
The niello of Siam / Thailand has a fine quality and a particular lustre.
Siam silver was very popular with visitors to the region between 1930 and 1970. However, niello was used traditionally in the region for centuries, and was collected by royal and wealthy families there.
The principal designs within this style of jewellery are those incorporating characters from legends. Also Dancers, zodiac signs and animals appear.
You will find the following characters regularly:
Mekkala(h), the Goddess of Lightning – shown with lightning bolts coming from her hand. A well known figure in Thai culture. This is by far the most common character depicted in Siam jewellery, and is the theme you normally see in Siam jewellery.
Ramasoon, the God of Thunder – shown with an axe in his hand. Often shown with Mekkala.
Nang Fa, the Fairy of Happiness – looks like she’s dropping stardust from her hand to the floor.
Matcha, the Mermaid Queen – has a fish/mermaid tail instead of legs. Sometimes shown with Hanuman, she appears with him in the Ramakien.
Hanuman, King of Monkeys – a clothed monkey-diety holding a sword. Sometimes shown with Matcha. This is due to a Ramakien tale of Hanuman being sent by Prince Rama to build a bridge over Queen Matcha’s Sea Kingdom, but the Monkey King falls in love and seduces her instead.
Thepanom, a Thai Guardian Angel deity – sits devoutly with hands in prayer position, with a flame like motif behind the head.
Erawan (aka Airavata),Three Headed Elephant: a multi-headed elephant king, well known in Hinduism. Erawan carries Indra (the God of rain and thunderstorms) on its back. Mentioned in the Ramayana.
Phra Samut Chedi (a.k.a Phra Chedi Klang Nam), The Floating Pagoda, a world famous temple pagoda building in Thailand (located in the Phra Samut Chedi District) which floats on water.
Suphanahongse, The Royal Barges; a collection of ornate boats now housed in the Royal Barge National Museum on Bangkok Noi Canal.
Lord Rama, (Prince/ Lord) – major Hindu God who is central to the Ramayana epic; depicted with a bow and arrow.
Dancing Angel – depicted with a long curved garland (looks like rope) held behind the back. Were possibly warriors who were magically turned into angels (Ramayana).
Garuda (Garunda) – a winged mythical creature – a cross between human and eagle and is found in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. It forms part of the national symbol of Thailand and is an emblem of the King of Thailand.
Sword dancer – figure holding up two swords. Using a sword in both hands is a method commonly used some Thai martial arts and in many traditional dances.
Kinnara (Kinnaris) – an Eastern celestial half-woman, half- swan bird creature. Her upper body is that of a woman, her lower body and legs are that of a bird.
( Thank you to Nikki Hallford @ Jewellery Muse for this list.)
There are a huge range of styles on offer to the collector of this particular style of Souvenir Jewellery, each piece is slightly different to the next.
There are also very fine earlier pieces available, often ceremonial or functional pieces and contemporary designers still work in the technique.
References from Charles Dittell
For further discussion click here