Amazing Hill Tribes Silver
Located in the Golden Triangle--where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand connect--are the talented metalsmiths behind Hill Tribes silver. The hill tribes consist of six main tribes--the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Akha, Lahu and Lisu tribes--each with its own traditions. And this translates into their renowned handmade metal beads and components prized by jewelry designers for their beauty.
Since 2002, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® has been selling Hill Tribes silver. A milestone trip to Bangkok for a jewelry show brought owners Chris and Stuart Freedman into contact with a Hill Tribes representative. While they were familiar with the silver, this time was different. Impressed with the handmade quality shown to them, they had to learn more. Canceling a trip to China, they flew to beautiful Chiang Mai--the largest city in northern Thailand--and from there traveled to meet the silversmiths of the region. Here they observed firsthand high-quality silver fashioned into unique jewelry designs by skilled artisans.
The beauty of these components lies in the artistic skill of those who make them by hand. Each piece is unique and has a distinctive feel ranging from gorgeous hammered finishes to intricate patterns; it's hard to mistake them for anything other than Hill Tribes silver. Initially only available in fine silver, they are now available in high-quality silver-plated items, which is fantastic news for jewelry makers.
Using hand tools--like hammers, drawing plates, soldering irons, files and stamps--artisans create beads, pendants, chains and clasps. The fine silver pieces are polished, and the base metal designs go to Chiang Mai for plating.
Carving a bead
Creating a bead hole with a hammer and nail
With styles ranging from intricate and antiqued to shiny and avant-garde, there is something to suit every taste with these components. Design elements include beads, pendants, drops, accent beads, round link chains and findings. Another bonus, pieces made with fine silver do not tarnish as readily as their sterling counterparts.
Hill Tribes silver is something special. It is quality combined with a rich metalworking heritage and culture all its own.
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