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 Silver Ornaments Making


    The Miao in Southeast Guizhou especially like wearing silver ornaments during wedding occasion and festivals like

Sisters'meal festival and Dragon boat festival in Shidong, Taijing, Miao new year in Leishan and Kaili, New rice eating festival and Miao new year in Danzhai county and Lusheng festival in nearby Kaili villages, so wearing silver ornaments becomes very important and necessary for the Miao, thus there appears lots of Miao silver smithes.

 The Miao's silver technique is quite special and superb, the process of making silver ornaments is too complicated, here is some useful information of how silver ornaments made.

   The whole process includes casting and moulding, hammering, weaving and washing.

   First of all, put silver of different shapes into a crucible covered by burning charcoals, then blow charcoals by a pipe or bellows so as to enhance temperature. While the silver is completely melt into liquids, pore it into a small and long rectangular trough.About 20 minutes or half an hour later, when the silver is solidified, take it out and hammer it as it is still a little hot. Usually this process is to hammer silver into rectangular shape. If silver pieces wanted, just hammer it into a much wilder thin slice, if silver threads needed, use a board to draw threads on which threads are drawn through small holes on the board.

   Generally speaking, Miao silver is mainly made of square, round, piece and thread shapes. The technique of square and round shapes is simple, it's usually just made by hammering, however piece shape need more time and labor, firstly hammer the silver into thin pieces, then cut it into different size of pieces, and put them onto mold plates and press in order to make them into different patterns according the requirement. Silver threads making is more sophisticated, there are two kinds of threads, one is big, the other small, big silver threads can be an ornament, and small silver threads are the important and necessary parts of silver ornaments.

   The process of putting all parts of silver ornamets into a finished ornamet is called weaving, welding is also used together with weaving.

   Paste with boric acid and burn the silver onrament again to make it hot.

   Finally soak the finished silver ornament into a wash basin together with burnt alum for several times, then brush it and clean it with clean water, thus the final ornament is made.

   Usually the silver smith just make silver ornaments for a certain region, for instance, the silver smith from Shidong, Taiiang just make the silver patterns for his region, and the silver smith from Kongbai, Leishan just make silver ornements for that region. But now with the development of transportation, some of the silver smith from these regions have left their homes to the other further areas to make silver ornaments for a new region. I've once seen a silver smith from Kongbai make silver for the Miao in Tingdong, Congjiang where the Dong is majority. you know the distance between these two places is about 230kms, thus the silver making technique can be introduced to such a far area. I also had another experience, I went to visit the Red embroidery Miao villages several times in Jianhe in 1997, 1998,1999, I didn't see any silver crowns that time, but now I saw some pictures of those villages and found some Miao wemen of those villages start to wear silver crowns which are quite similar to the ones in the regions of Leishan, so I think the silver smith from Leishan might have been there and made silver ornaments for the Miao there.

  But not everyone has time to travel to the silver smith's village to see Miao silver ornament making, many of them just travel around Kaili area, there are two places in Kaili where such tourists can see silver ornament making, one is in the old street of Kaili during the market day on Sunday, the other place is the textile market near Jinquanhu Lake, the best day to visit the textile market is on Friday, in the Miaomei silver ornament shop you can see silver making.  

 Finally I hope this consummate traditional skill will be introduced to the much poorer region-Northwest Guizhou, hope parents of that region can have money to prepare silver ornaments for their daughters' wedding.


Melting silver
 Melting silver
Put burning silver into a trough
 Put burning silver into a trough
 Pounding silver into large pieces
 Pounding silver into large pieces
Burning large pieces of silver   
 Burning large pieces of silver
Large pieces of silver
 Large pieces of silver
some tools for making silver
 some tools for making silver
Completed silver ornaments worn on Siester's meal festival
Completed silver ornaments worn on Siester's meal festival









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