Siamese Sterling Dream
Pictured above are some recent Siam Sterling finds. I have a mini collection of these pieces, because I like the play between their delicate etchings and the heavy, gunmetal backgrounds. This “niello” or “nielloware” style, is created by hand carving out areas of the silver and then baking a sulfur/metals powder in the negative spaces (I also can’t resist anything that looks like it’s been made by human hands).
Because each piece was crafted by an artisan, I’ve yet two see two pieces that were exactly alike. Still, Siam Sterling is pretty easy to spot both because of its distinctive enamelling and also the design frequently depicts Mekkala, the Goddess of Lightning, or other characters from the Ramayana, an ancient Hindu religious tale.
Siam Sterling jewellery and other decorative items were very popular souvenirs for visitors to Thailand (a.k.a. Siam) from the 1930s into the 1980s. A lot of it made its way into North America from soldiers who visited Thailand on leave and wanted to pick up a pretty bauble for their wives, sisters or mothers back home.
One of my favourite things ever is a panel bracelet, decorated with the niello crests of each province in Canada. It is marked THAI NAKON SIAM STERLING. I love it because the artist who created it had clearly never seen a bison or even seen a picture of one, so Manitoba‘s features a great, maned lion instead.