The Mystery That is Siam Sterling Jewelry

Let me preface this article with a bit about my expertise. I fell in love with this jewelry about six years ago and about four years ago my husband and I decided that we should write a book on it. There are two books on the subject and we felt that although they made a good start, much of the information is missing and some of it is incorrect.

Since then thousands of hours have been spent on this endeavor.  We own over 2,200 pieces, each studied, categorized, dated, and cataloged. I found and read the Ramakien story of Rama and Sita. I also found and read the child's fairy tale of Mekhala and Ramasoon. I have studied the figures and designs, the hardware, and the workmanship. I have found and purchased travel books, salesman price lists, and read trade magazines, all searching for clues to this jewelry that embraces a mystical world of a very old story...

It is a time of gods and men and the games they played on the earth below. It is a time of spells and curses, warriors and lovers, victory and loss, and the fight to defeat the ultimate enemy. It is a time of epic battles, great sorrows, ultimate hope, and a love that overcame all. It is the story of Rama and Sita of the Ramakien of Thailand…

 

There are many mysteries left but before I get sidetracked...let's get to the most common questions...

WHAT IS IT

Siam sterling jewelry is sterling silver jewelry made in Thailand and depicts the characters of mythology and from the Ramakien (the Thailand national story) as well as the story of Mekhala and Ramasoon. It was manufactured with two different combinations - Sterling / Niello and Sterling / Enamel. For our purposes here, I will be focusing on Niello.

WHAT IS NIELLO

It is the black part of the Siam Sterling jewelry and can be confused with Damascene. Niello is made from silver, copper, sulphur, lead and ammonium chloride. It is applied while Damascene is not.

Damascene is the art of inlaying one metal into another with the black base usually being a black oxidized steel.

WHEN WAS SIAM STERLING JEWELRY MADE

It was made from approximately 1926 until 1989.  I know, not what a lot of people think when they see the word 'Siam', falsely thinking that this name dates the piece.

What differentiates the pieces is by how they are marked.  Here is a general guideline for marks:

No markings - 1926 - 1935
Sterling - 1926 - 1946
Siam Silver - late 1940s
Handmade in Siam - Early 1950s
Made in Siam - 1940s
Siam Sterling - Early 1950s - mid 1960s
Sterling Thailand - 1965 to present

The bulk of the jewelry made has been made since 1965. 

IS IT ALL HAND ENGRAVED

No.  Some is hand engraved while some is stamped and in a few VERY rare cases, it was cast. Often it is a mixture of stamped sterling and finishing touches are hand done.  

Take a 10x loupe and view the indentations of the design inside the Niello area. If it is hand carved the deepest part of the line will be sharp, not rounded.  Check more than one line.

Often the piece is stamped and then the open work edge is finished off (enhanced) by hand. The most common pieces are stamped.

WHAT'S IT WORTH

That is a loaded question and it depends on what you have.  If you have one of the small lightweight link bracelets marked Siam Sterling...not much.  If you have a small narrow bracelet marked Sena...then you have something.

Obviously all the jewelry has worth dependent upon the price of silver.  What adds worth above and beyond the silver is the design, the workmanship, the rarity, and how it is marked. 

These are my favorite makers and I'm willing to pay more for these names...

Thai Nakon
Margrett
Sena
Alex & Co
Yap Kui Kee
Ratanabha
Amfarco

One more comment on worth - that is suites (sets).  These are rare and expect to pay well for them.  Most of the jewelry made was made to be sold as individual pieces.

So, to wrap things up, I'm sure this is not all the questions people have.  This was just a quickie, to give some insight. So what do you do if you have more questions?  Well that part is easy.

Post your questions about Siam Sterling jewelry in the response area and I will see about giving you some direction.  This should be fun - especially when this is one of my favorite subjects.  

38 comments

avatar

Daye is an avid collector and researcher of all things vintage.

38 comments

  • Marissa
    Marissa

    Hi,

    I have a “set” of two peices of silverware, not jewelry, labelled simply “Amfarco Siam.” Would you happen to know anything about this cutlery as opposed to jewelry? Glad to see the mention of the Amfarco brand on this page.

    Thanks!

    Patti
    Patti

    I used to buy silver and gold from Estate Sales. I have had a lot of these pieces for many years and I am trying to get a value for them. Most say 925 Made in Siam. I have what appeared to be a cigarette case, a wide bracelet, 5 cuff links, 2 narrow bracelets, & 4 necklaces. 2 necklaces have heavy ornate chains and 2 have small chains. Would be happy to send pictures if you are interested in seeing the pieces. Thank you, Patti

    Kara Bright KIlgore
    Kara Bright KIlgore

    Hi David,
    I have a ring that belonged to one of my ancestors ( not sure which one) I found it in the basement. It features one of the Siam characters feathered above set in niello. The character appears to be surrounded on the band by what looks like sea creatures. I’m not looking to sell. I love this ring and am searching for what story is depicted on this ring. On the inside of the band it is marked Siam with what looks like 823 or 822 and underneath that it is marked as sterling. I was wondering if it would be okay if I sent you a picture of it?
    Thank you for your time,
    Kara

    jl
    jl

    Did you write a book about the mysteries of Siam Jewelry?
    I have spent some time sorting through my jewelry and am always interested learning more.
    A response. Is appreciated.
    Thank you.

    daye.salander@gmail.com
    daye.salander@gmail.com

    Hi Kaylan,

    The piece you have is enamel, not Niello. The art of doing Nielloware was not developed in Thailand so it is done elsewhere in the world. The Japanese did do some knock offs of the Siam Sterling jewelry. Mid Century, when Nielloware was very popular, several other countries did similar jewelry including Iran and Japan.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Sale

Unavailable

Sold Out