A brief history of Nielloware:
Traditionally these silver pieces were hand carved & the niello was created by baking 50% sulphur, copper, silver & lead which forms the black enamel like coating on this silver accessory. These materials would be heated to very high temperatures to form a coating for the silver. The items would then be engraved again. Nielloware was particularly popular in the 13th & 15th centuries but very few pieces from these times survive. The process to produce nielloware is quite demanding as you can imagine. Nielloware pieces are often made from high grade silver.
Nielloware has a huge following. The history of this genre is particularly interesting as Siam niello tells a story of an epic adventure, The Ramayana. The Thai version is called The Ramakien.This epic is popular throughout India, Siam (now Thailand) & neighbouring countries too.
Hanuman on his chariot, a scene from the Ramakien
Valmiki writing the Ramayana
The author of The Ramayana (aka: Ramakien)
A fascinating story - The Uttara Kanda tells the story of Valmiki’s life as a highway robber called Ratnakar who killed & robbed his victims. Ratnakar tried to rob the sage Narada & the sage asked him ‘Will your family bear the sin of this robbery too?’ Ratnakar replied ‘Yes’, but the wise sage said ‘You must go & ask them’.
This he did & none of his family wanted to share this sin. The robber finally understood all he should about life & asked for Narada’s forgiveness. Ratnakar was taught the mantra for salvation but salvation was not given to murderers. Narada’s solution was to chant ‘Mara’ which an anagram of ‘Rama’. The robber meditated for so long that ant-hills grew around where he sat. Only after many years of meditation did he hear a divine voice announcing his penance was successful. With his new found self he was re-named Valmiki - one born out of ant-hills. Valmikam is Sanskrit for ant-hill.
The Ramayana is composed of approximately 480,000 words. It tells the story of Prince Rama of Ayodya whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon-king Raksasa of Lanka, Ravana. This poem plays an important role within Hindu literature, as it depicts the duties of relationships by describing ideal relationships which one should aspire to, as well as the concept of karma.
Usually the principal designs shown on Siam nielloware are legendary characters, animals and scenes of historical importance.
We adore the history of collectibles and so each purchase of nielloware will be shipped with our huge and lavishly illustrated fact pack telling you all you need to know about this genre.
Of course other countries also made nielloware accessories. French nielloware is especially valuable.