Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday Favorites: Nielloware From Mom

When I was a girl my mother had a necklace that I always loved. It was of a dancing lady that I found so pretty and exotic. Years later my mother gave me the piece and I noticed that it said "Siam Sterling" on the back. I new that it came from Thailand, and that it must have come from the Mid Century time frame given the silver stamping. But that was all that I really knew about it. 

A quick search online identified it as Nielloware. Specifically it is vintage sterling silver (c. 1940s, Siam). The process involves first engraving the silver design, then carving out background areas which are then filled in with a sulfur power mixture. The piece is baked at very high temperatures and then polished. The final step is to re-engrave the silver. In Thailand it is call khruang thom. This process dates back hundreds of years, and was especially popular in the 13th and 15th centuries in places like Russia, India, Japan as well as Thailand. 

Nielloware became popular in the US from the 1950s to 1970s when it was introduced by US servicemen during the Vietnam war who sent jewelry home to their sweethearts. My father was in the Airforce during this time, and no doubt how it ended up in my mom's jewelry box.

The woman on the piece from my mother is known as Mekkala, the Goddess of Lightning (an atmospheric diva whose power comes from the gem in her hand which creates lightning) ... one of the many mythological characters that show up on Nielloware. Mekkala plays an important role In Thai's version of The Ramakien (Hindu legend of Ramayama). The story is told through dancers with elaborate costumes and masks. It is about a prince, his wife, his parents (the King and Queen of Siam) and the evil King of Ceylon. The prince struggles with mortal flaws to endeavor to find the right path. Mekkala steps in and helps the young prince at one point in the story when he is struggling in the waves after the wreck of his ship. She carries him in her arms back to his home. Your usual epic. 

For me this piece of jewelry reminds me of being a young girl and sneaking into my mother's jewelry to marvel at the things inside the box.


LisaS said...

A beautiful piece with an interesting background. -Thank you for sharing all the info on nielloware ;)

The Artful Diva said...

lovely jewelry - I always love to hear the background of this type of thing.

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Ashley said...

Love this post! I used to do the same thing with my grandmother's jewelry chest. It brings back the best memories!



Southern (California) Belle

alankarshilpa said...

What a cool story! I am from India and I have the story of Ramayana since I was a child

Christine Kemp said...

I too remember time spent playing in my mothers jewelry box, great memories and TFS this story. BTW I'm follower 100.

BeadedTail said...

Lovely piece and very interesting background! It so special to have items like this!

Miss Val's Creations said...

This is such a neat treasure your mom held onto! The artwork of Mekkala is beautiful. This is the type of piece you will want to pass down through generations. Great theatrical pictures here!

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Shaiha said...

What a wonderful memory and thank you so much for sharing the history of piece.

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