Karen Silver is a type of silver used by members of the Karen Tribe of Northern Thailand for making ornaments and jewelry. Thailand is home to a large number of Karen people from Myanmar who have settled along the boundaries of Thailand and Myanmar. Since 1949, the Karen people have been waging war against the National Government of Myanmar, and because of this protracted war, many of the Karen people from Myanmar had settled along the fringes of Myanmar and Thailand.

The Karen People, especially, those of the Kayan tribe, have long believed that silver has magical power, and this belief is of ancient origin. Women of the Kayan tribe, for example, wore neck-rings and other ornaments made of silver alloys. These neck-rings and ornaments are said to remind them of their ancient origin—the Mother Dragon. The Kayan tribe strongly believe that the ancient Mother Dragon mated with humans and her offspring became the present-day Karen people. Due to this belief, they eventually begin to attribute healing power to the silver neck-rings that they wear.

What Makes Karen Silver Unique?

The ornaments and rings made of Karen silver are definitely of unique and high quality. They are intricately wrought and are of artistry. For this reason, the jewelry and ornaments made by Karen people have grown in popularity around the world for their high quality and artistry, and are now highly-sought after by jewelry collectors and users.
The silver jewelry and ornaments of the Karen people exhibit great craftsmanship, for most of the Karen people have grown to become experts in making pendants, charms, beads, chains, and other ornaments. Every piece that they create is veritably handmade by a native Karen craftsman; moreover, their homes and huts are their ready workshops.

Karen Silver Making a Headway in the Fashion World

The tribal craftsmanship of the Karen people has already gained much attention in the fashion world. A 2001 to 2002 exhibit, for example, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art had featured images of Karen women, specifically, those of Kayan and Ndebele women. These featured images engendered great fashion ideas soon after. Long before this exposition in New York, earlier in the 20th century, curator Harold Koda already mentioned in his catalog the Kayan women and the universality of the idea that “long neck is generally associated with beauty.” Since Kayan women are known for their seemingly long necks, they are usually considered exotically exquisite.

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The Unique Characteristics of Karen Silver

Aside from the unique handcrafted silver jewelry and ornaments of the Karen Tribe, the silver that they use are likewise unique. It is unique because it does not tarnish easily. The reason for this is that it is made of 97.5 to 99% silver. Hence, it is very soft as compared to other types of silver because it is almost made of pure silver. Moreover, it is shinier than other silver types and is more pleasing to the naked eye.

The Karen craftsmen, for example, hammer thin sheets of silver into perfect shapes via the use of molds. Afterwards, they solder the silver pieces together and engrave them with lovely designs. The Karen tribal silversmiths, therefore, are very adept in silver craftsmanship, producing unique individual ornament and jewelry that could rival anything in the world.

The Karen craftsmen, for example, hammer thin sheets of silver into perfect shapes via the use of molds. Afterwards, they solder the silver pieces together and engrave them with lovely designs. The Karen tribal silversmiths, therefore, are very adept in silver craftsmanship, producing unique individual ornament and jewelry that could rival anything in the world.