Who are the Karen hill tribe?
Thai and Burmese hill tribes can be traced back to the 12th century, originating from Tibet. The Karen tribe is the largest of around twenty hill tribes whose total population today numbers more than seven million across The Union of Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. In Thailand, around 400,000 Karen live at between 800m and 1800m up in the mountainous and densely forested regions of Mae Hong Son, due west of Chiang Mai. Most villages are remote from Thai civilisation. Houses are made of teak or bamboo and usually constructed on stilts to provide space and shelter for livestock. The Karen villagers have few possessions and little if any furniture, usually sleeping on floor mats, cooking on open fires, and drawing washing and drinking water from a nearby river. They are predominately farmers of agricultural produce for their own use and are often referred to as 'The farmers of the forest'. Some speak the Karen language, whilst others speak Thai.
What makes Karen hill tribe silver so special?
Being between 99.5% and 99.9% pure silver, Karen silver has a higher silver content than Sterling silver. It's just the solder used to fuse the silver components together that makes up the last fractions of a percent. Consequently, it has a weight, bright satin colour, and feel, all of its own. Every piece is handmade and individual. The hand-hammered and chased details are wonderful and you can actually see evidence of each piece having been formed by the hands of a Karen craftsman. These pieces are not usually hallmarked in any way, but we can guarantee their origins.
Providing support to the Karen hill tribe people
Today, the Karen people face a variety of problems including poverty, disease, cultural change and a lack of opportunities. The Karen Hill Tribes Trust at www.karenhilltribes.org.uk is a charity founded in 1999 by Penelope Worsley to help the Karen people build a better future. Here, you can purchase products hand made by the Karen people, plus find out ways in which you may be able to offer your help.