by Julie Holmes
I love Hill Tribe silver. It has an ethnic feel to it, and a spiritual quality. I've seen the name around for a while, but didn't understand why it was called "Hill Tribe". ...so, I've done a little research and found this good information here:
Hill Tribe Silver Beads Story
The Karen tribe (Kariang or Yang in their native language) is the largest of the five more prominent hill tribes in Northern Thailand, where the largest city is Chaing Mai. As many as 500,000 members of 20 hill tribes in the region are known for a variety of skills, and most support themselves as farmers in this mountainous area. Early in the last century, these tribes were formed when people from Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Tibet, and China, emigrated to start a new life. Their numbers still grow slowly as people leave behind their previous homes for various social and political reasons.
The Karen hill tribe people have made a name for themselves with their expert skill as silversmiths. This craft is a generations-old art that in the 1960s was recognized and promoted by Thailand’s king at the time. Once channels for production and marketing were opened, it was only a matter of time for the particular appeal of these hand-crafted, pure silver creations to raise significant interest. Karen tribe members produce beads like these that are now sold through many avenues worldwide. These pure silver pieces have a natural, rustic-refined personality that draws quite a following. A few distributors have built personal as well as business relationships with the crafters, and take pride in these positive connections.
Hill Tribe silver is a fair-trade product, so the artisans are paid a fair wage for their work. This rate of pay is often called a “living wage,” since it allows for a healthy and sufficient lifestyle in the culture. As part of the fair-trade arrangement, the crafters are also required to meet international conservation and environmental-protection standards
Look at this beautiful Hill Tribe Silver ring from Overstock
And this beautiful bracelet by Mary Jane
Hill tribe silver is more "pure" than sterling, therefore it's softer and more malleable, but will also tarnish less quickly. You can buy it at Artbeads , and many other internet stores.
If you use Hill Tribe Silver in your work, please post your pictures on our FB page! We'd love to see it!