History of Karen Hill Tribe Silver
Chiang Mai, also known as the upcoming hotspot for digital nomads, is not only rich in natural paradise, fascinating activities, and inspirational energy; it’s also known home to the talented Karen Hill Tribes who prove that in spite of life’s survival challenges, there’s always a way to turn things around with nature’s resources, hand skills and imagination.
Their journey begins in around the 18th century, where historians believe that the first Hill tribes migrated from Tibet & the Gobi Desert. The ones that found their way to Siam’s paradise, ended up in the mountainous regions of Thailand, and started undergoing some environmentally conscious farming: crop rotation. They farmed rice, soya beans, tomatoes, tobacco, herbs, melons, and the infamous opium.
Back in the 1970’s, opium had become a major problem in South East Asia, especially amongst the Chinese travelers who were passing through Thailand. Rather than punishing the tribes for partaking in illegal activities, the government worked alongside organizations such as the United Nations to substitute the Hill tribe’s main source of income to other cash crops as well as textiles and jewelry. Hence, Karen Hill tribe jewelry handcrafting tradition began and, encouraged by Thailand’s Royal Family, was passed down through multiple generations.
Karen Hill Tribes of Chiang Mai Thailand, located mainly in the lower mountainous areas of Chiang Mai, continue this tradition and supply a number of retailers and distributors of Karen Hill tribe silver jewelry, recently also referred to as fine silver. This has helped the Karen hill tribe minority group shift their major source of income from crops to silver jewelry parts, improving the lives of many and increasing opportunities that have become available to them.
With plenty of room for economic, social, and education growth, Thailand Handicrafts is proud to be a part of such a positive change for the betterment of society and the local community; working alongside talented silversmiths, we wish to continue this ongoing cultural activity, tradition, and ultimately business that could help the Karen Hill tribe community build a better life.