“Nan” – a province being shrouded in mist and surrounded by mountains – is one of the most outstanding silverware manufacturing centers of Thailand with a long history of handicraft tradition. Techniques and know-how have been passed on from generation to generation, and silverware making has become a professional trade since 1972. Then in 1995, a group of craftsmen in silverware, embroidery, handicraft and textile founded “Nan’s Chompu Phuka Silver and Handicraft Center” with an aim to promote local silverware items made by hill-tribe people as souvenirs for visitors.
Chompu Phuka silverware is handmade by people in Mien (Yao) and Hmong (Maew) hill tribes, who have developed expertise in silverware making since ancient times. With unique patterns and exquisite craftsmanship, they produce silver jewelry including necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings, hairpins and belts, as well as silverware including bowls, jars, ladles and trays. These silver products are so popular among Thai and foreign customers that Chompu Phuka silverware is a must-have souvenir for all tourists travelling to Nan.
Distinctive Features of Chompu Phuka Silverware
The beauty of Chompu Phuka silverware is second to none. Its distinctiveness lies in the 96%-100% percentage of silver, which is remarkably high compared to those from other sources, resulting in moderate hardness of the material. Chompu Phuka also gains its reputation from high craftsmanship and unique patterns being mostly inspired by nature. Some of the popular ones are kratin flower (white popinac) pattern, Thep Panom (deva) pattern and patterns depicting plants in the mythical Himmaphan forest, which are similar to those used by the Thai Lue tribe.
Kratin flower salung, www.lannaka.com
Areca box and tray, www.nansilvers.com
Salung is a word in Lanna local language, referring to a kind of containers which looks like bowls used in the central region of Thailand. These containers are engraved in various patterns, such as lotus petal pattern, Thep Panom pattern, kratin flower pattern and the pattern of 12 Chinese zodiac signs. These patterns indicate which salung is used in daily life and which one is used in special occasions and ceremonies. For example, salungs for general use are engraved in cotton flower, sunflower and kratin flower motifs, while those for special occasions, to be used as holy water containers in religious ceremonies or used in water sprinkling on Buddha image during Songkran festival, are decorated with 12 Chinese zodiac signs or patterns depicting Buddhist folk tales.
Areca Box and Tray is mostly found as a set of silver containers for areca nuts, betel leaves and tobacco. Even though not so many people are consuming areca and betel today, areca boxes and trays are still popular among silverware collectors. The favorable patterns include the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, kratin flower and lotus petal patterns. Their designs have been modified in line with contemporary styles and customers’ demand, but the exquisite craftsmanship is still well preserved.
Bag, bangle and necklace (from left to right), www.phukhasilvers.com
Guaranteed by Five-Star OTOP Prize
In general, Nan’s silverware does not look shiny and polished. The material is soft, especially at the hook, and has more weight compared to stainless steel. Silverware products have smooth surface and exquisite details made by hands. The price of each item depends on its weight and the difficulty level of the pattern. One of the important cautions in using silverware is not putting hot or salty contents into silver containers since its color will change and re-polishing is required to bring back its beautiful color.
From handicrafts made by hill-tribe people, now Chompu Phuka silverware is guaranteed by five-star OTOP prize and has become one of the most important products of Nan province. A strong group of silversmiths has been established, and Nan’s Chompu Phuka Silverware and Handicraft Center is now the hub for silverware manufacturing and trading, while also provides training and education for over 200 families in the community, with around 50 families receiving manufacturing orders. The center plays a crucial role in creating jobs for people in the community and preserving the silverware tradition for its long future in Nan.
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