there are several semi-nomadic hill tribes that live in the highlands of northern
thailand, and some of them roam freely back and forth across the borders of
burma and laos. for over 2,000 years their way of life has changed little. there are
seven major tribal groups: karen, hmong, yaho, lisu, lahu, lawa, and akha. each
ethnic group of tribes has its own distinctive culture, including tribal dress and
high status in the communities is reserved for silversmiths, for with these tribes'
frequent wanderings from place to place came the need to transport worldly
wealth easily, and silver jewelry fulfills both this need and the desire for
adornment. the hill tribe people regard silver as currency and an indication of
wealth and status of the family of the wearer. jewelry is normally made from silver,
most melted down from indian and burmese silver coins. hill tribe members,
especially women, wear every item of silver they possess, all the time. the
profusion of ornaments may include heavy silver belts and bracelets,
headdresses composed of silver coins, huge earrings, and necklaces hung with
such useful implements as toothpicks, scissors, and tweezers, also made of silver.
great time and imagination are invested in the production of these articles within
each family, as they represent status and express pride. in thai culture, silver
also has a religious significance and is thought to protect the wearer against evil
so, what is the difference between sterling and thai silver? sterling silver is an
alloy of silver containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals (usually
copper). sterling silver is around 92% to 93% silver, but thai silver is 95% to 98%
silver, making it more expensive and therefore also more valuable.