Posted by byHillTribe on July 10, 2012

Longan harvest season begins at Na Sai Karen Hill Tribe Village

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It’s been a while since our last visit to Na Sai Village, a Thai hill tribe village predominantly made up of the Karen tribe, the same Karen hill tribe village that at one time busily crafted each individual silver jewelry components we’ve all come to know as “Hill Tribe Silver”. Our visit today is not about silver but more about what’s coming up in a couple of weeks– harvest time for the Logan ลำไย plantation การเก็บเกี่ยวลำไย.

This is suppose to be the mother-load harvest of the last decade for some families, including a large Karen family we’ve known for many years. Everyone’s excited, including us! That’s awkward considering we’re now receiving more orders to manufacture silver beads than we have in the previous 6 months. In actual reality, we should be very excited to get back to hammering and string out silver beads and jewelry but this year is much different. Our Karen families have been waiting for this year for a very long time. Like any other plantations, the biggest harvest season doesn’t come every year and even if it did, the price for the fruit doesn’t always make it profitable. This year is different. Not only did the Longan tree yield more fruit, the price is also at the highest per Kilogram than any previous year. The Eakarak, Karen family is expecting to realize profit of nearly 1 Million Baht for this year’s Longan Harvest season. Manufacturing silver beads will have to put on the side burner for a couple of weeks… we can understand why and certainly hope our customers will too.

Longan fruit nearly ready for harvest.

Our Karen artisans are the hardest working people we know. Often it seems that’s about all they are focused on– work. family. future. profit. survival. Don’t get us wrong; just as in any society, there are always some rotten or over ripe people that bring a bad name to their people. There is still much needed education in the village as euphoria of ignorance still remain, pushing many adolescents to drugs and prostitution. Fortunately this is rare enough that it doesn’t concern us any more. None the less, the world seems to rotate differently in Na Sai Village and we’re only an hour away from the big city of Lamphun.

“Out here time move slower, thunder is louder, stars are brighter, skies are clearer and 1 Baht can actually buy something,” Mr. Sak reminded us. On this particular day, we are envious of such wonderful atmosphere. Then we asked, how long will it take to harvest the Longan– “about 1 month,” he continued. “It takes a group of 4 all day to harvest all the fruit from 1 Longan tree,” he adds, “it may take us longer than a month this year considering the volume…” Counting only what our Karen families have in total, there are 880 Longan tree ready for harvesting. WOW. There looking for help so we may just be headed back up here with our own team to help our friends. Anybody interested– they’ll pay a labor fee of 3 baht per Kilogram! Maybe more if you’re a foreigner. LOL.

That said, we have to strategize our inventory and manufacturing procedure. Being that this too is our peak months of the year, we have to carefully plan how our artisans can benefit from both worlds– their Longan and also their skillful hands as silversmiths. Going head on and hammering out each order as normal is out of the question. Good thing the Karens produced more women than they do men. As it so happens, the Karen hill tribe women are just as useful, often more resourceful than their men. No offense but this part is true at least for the village of Na Sai, Prabhathuaythom, Lamphun, Thailand. So in conclusion, from the next 45 days, we will be relying on the Karen women of Na Sai to produce our silver– for the most part. We look forward to seeing the results and instead of thinking of this as a setbacks, we will look at this as an opportunity to see the difference in outcome of quality as well as reliability. We’ve work with these Karen families from Na Sai for many years– they are part of our extended family. That is we eat, play, giggle, laugh and cry together when the time come. Today we’re excited and when the Longan season is done and every fruit is cashed in, we will be joyfully laughing, celebrating and looking forward to a brighter future than before.

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Posted by byHillTribe on July 10, 2012

How hill tribe silver is used to make beautiful personal jewelry

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Handmade Jewelry: New Thai Hill Tribe silver pendant necklaces!.

It’s wonderful seeing some of our beautiful Karen hill tribe silver used in designs around the globe. This particular blog contains jewelry made by a loyal customer from Sacred Earth Jewelry. We want to give her support for her good work– Thank you so much for your support. We want to leave her name out as she is not aware we are blogging about her work. Please feel free to see some of her design and give her some support by clicking on the title link above or here: Handmade Jewelry: New Thai Hill Tribe silver

Seeing our customer’s creative handy work make us want to do more. We know the market is down right now and this is true not only for us but also for all of our customers. We know because you are ordering much, much less than before. Sales are down for everyone but this is no excuse for us to stop thinking of how we can continue to help you, our customers and the backbone of our business, the hill tribe artisans. We’ve worked with the Karen hill tribe at Na Sai village for nearly 10 years and just recently went on a trip to show our support and check in since it has been nearly a year since our last visit. What we saw reaffirms our notion that many silversmiths have now moved on to concentrate on their farms and plantations. The younger adults, particularly men have moved into bigger cities to find jobs to earn income for their family. During the big silver rush, many Karens were deceived by the constant workload that came about and sold property and plantations. These families are now struggling to get by as silversmithing is now a small portion of the income flow at Na Sai Karen Hill Tribe Village. It is a sad story we too did not expect to write about. More on this very soon as this blog is dedicated to Sacred Earth Jewelry and we want to keep like so.

Thank you for all your support Sacred Earth. We wish you all the best with your inspiring jewelry designs and hope to continue being your hill tribe silver supplier for many year to come. God bless!

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Posted by byHillTribe on July 2, 2012

Silver Price Triple Bottom: What does this mean to us, a small manufacturers using physical silver

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Excerpt from MarketOracle.co.uk

    There are 2 big differences between gold and silver which both suggest that silver has truly explosive upside potential from here. One is that silver has suffered a far more serious decline than gold over the past 2 years, with sentiment towards it becoming extraordinarily negative in the recent past, and the other that silver’s COT structure is now at record bullish levels, and far more bullish than that for gold. This is a situation where all it needed was some pivotal fundamental development – and last week we had it – to turn the tide in the other direction.

“Silver has truly explosive upside potential…” This is a common statement in the press lately and from a manufacturer’s point of view, we don’t truly appreciate it. Let’s face it, if you are a farmer and the price of your fertilizer is determined by what the stock market says it’s worth, then you’d likely have less desire an motivation to continue producing crops, right? Certainly you would if the price of that fertilizer goes up 10% this month and fall another 7% the next week then spike again another 15% the middle of the following month… Well, this is exactly how we feel dealing with silver, the US dollar, gas, oil and inflation in Thailand. Wow. There you have it– it’s hard to stay “inspired” and “motivated” when you know there are greedy bankers and traders pumping and manipulating the the stock market. This has happened for years and now “shit has hit the fan” and government has gotten involved with oversight, the public is more aware of what’s going on. Look at the Barclay Bank “interest rate” scandal for example. Why and how is it possible for big banks to get away with mass corruption? More oversight is needed. Yes, please! Watch these greedy people behind their terminals.

Being a small manufacturer of silver jewelry components in partnership with Phrabhat Huyathom Karen Hill Tribe Village, our company use the real physical metals (mainly silver and gold), we are effected by any immediate fluctuation of all the commodities, particular silver, gold, copper and the US Dollar. If price of silver spike or drop substantially, there a ripple in the pond and suddenly we find ourselves without any supply of physical gold or silver to manufacture our designs. Suppliers of silver granule often hold out on the sale for a day or two for the market to stabilize, this happens often when silver price drops quickly. And yes, it has happened all too often these last few years. Does this effect how our business operate, obviously it does. If the ingredient is not available, the cookies can’t be made…

You probably didn’t come here to hear us whining about things we have no control over. In summary, we certainly want to voice our opinion about what’s been going on lately in the markets, Europe, Americas and Asia. Corruption in politics is rife but not any more so than in business– so we’ve found out in recent years. We can’t stop it all but certainly there are ways to tame it. For the immediate solution, we’re vouching for more government oversight however this is likely headed for Doom as governments are subject of ridicule for bending over backwards for businessmen and companies with deep pockets. There’s just no end. Or is there?

What to do, what to do. LOL. We keep positive and keep motivating ourselves by just looking around the issue. Let the corrupt deal with the corrupt. We shall continue our work and trust God will provide the rest. Greed has hold on us all but there’s no point in having more power or money if there’s no satisfaction in anything we’ve done…

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Posted by byHillTribe on June 21, 2012

Na Sai Hill Tribe Karen Village in Li, Lamphun; Day’s trip to visit silversmiths

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Thailand to do | Na Sai Hill Tribe Karen Village in Li, Lamphun; Day’s trip to visit silversmiths, Prabhat Huaytom Village, Kruba Siwichai.

My first visit to Na Sai Karen Village was with family and friends under directions of a local silversmith, a Karen hill tribe himself. Mr. Eakarakpongsa (can you even pronounce that name?), a local from Na Sai village was very generous with his time, meeting us in Li and then taking us into the village and actually introduced us to many of his closest partners and friends. But of course, living in a village this size, you can’t help but be friends or at least acquaintances, like it or not. This was July of 2004 when tourists entering the village was not exactly welcomed in part due to the rising demand for their renown hill tribe silver designs and the natural reflex of “protectionism”.

karen hill tribe silversmith hammering beads

silver beads are hammered into shape using tree stump

Here in Thailand and probably everywhere else in the world– copycats are everywhere. Fresh new idea and unique concepts are rare. Copycat is something that I dislike very much about Thailand in general. I’m not referring to copycat in terms of personality but in terms of arts, business and intellectual properties. Although, I don’t believe Thailand is as bad as the Master COPYCATS– China– I do think Thailand is the worse in terms of copying another person’s ideas in business or art form. If a neighbor sees you’re doing well with something, likely he or she will throw on his own twist to that idea and “copy” your business. Just walk around the streets of Thailand and you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. You wouldn’t have to walk far in shopping or business district to see a similar item for sale in a second or third shop. This goes for virtually any idea that can be turned into profit, including silver jewelry. And this is exactly what the Karen Artisans in Na Sai – Prabhathuaythom Village บ้านพระบาทห้วยต้ม wanted to avoid and they did a fantastic job keeping their crafts “in-house”, not because they kept anyone away from learning their craft but circumstances allowed it to happen like so.

This is only speculation but having been in the silver jewelry business and living in Thailand for so many years, I’ve come to my own conclusion. Although the Karens at Na Sai did not welcome visitors into their village to tour around, it happened any way. Na Sai Village, more commonly referred to as Prabhathuaythom Village is not just a Karen hill tribe village with arts and crafts but also is a heart of the Buddhist Rain Retreat for monks during monsoon seasons. Hundreds of high priest and monks migrate to the many temples in surrounding villages of Li township. One of the most renown high priest in Northern Thai Buddhism is Kruba Sriwichai ครูบาศรีวิชัย who’s body is preserved and encased in a clear-glass coffin at Prabhathuaythom – Na Sai Village. In terms of Buddhist pilgrimage, Prabhathuaythom have long been under observation by Thais and foreign tourists, therefore the possibility of hill tribe silver craft getting out and flooding the Thai market has always been there. Thank God it did not and in my humble opinion it is due to the fact that Silver in Thai culture is not highly valued. Commonly Thais judge each other by wealth and appearance. People don’t say “OOOOh” or “AAAAh” at someone wearing a thick chain of silver but if that chain was Gold then there’s an obvious change of persona. Having status and getting respect from others is done through possession of valuables. I drive on the road around Chiang Mai and daily I see people driving vehicles worth the value of my house– and I have a very nice house. In Thai society, silver jewelry will never be justified as “of great value” and therefore, silver beads and silver jewelry made by the Karen hill tribe never had a chance in the local market– not even at its peak performance between 2004 and 2007. What the Karens had was a product that could not sell locally. That’s the main reason Karen hill tribe silver never encountered “Copycats” in terms of the physical art form. Thank Goodness.

That’s not to say copycats in the hill tribe silver business is not there. There certainly are. If you use the term “hill tribe silver” in Google search, look at the top 20 sites that come up on your results page. If you review similarities amongst these web sites, one can speculate that the same company selling a single item has created many different domain names (many sites) selling the exact same product– or — one can also speculate that copycats are very obvious at “copying” other businesses and instead of copy the craft, they’ve decided to copy the intellectual property of another person’s work. Frankly, the first theory is likely the case. Eventually that person will likely end up reading this post so I want to communicate something to the as well as I believe using this method will eventually come back to bite them in the ass. Greed, and selfishness will end up being destroyed by truth and compassion.

The road from Chiang Mai to Lamphun ลำพูน to Li is fantastic and well kept– one of the nicest roads to drive on for a day trip out from the city. I highly recommend on bikes or cars. Driving out to the country side is one of my favorites things to do with family these days. There aren’t a whole lot of things to do in Chiang Mai and I seem to be frustrated with the fact that things we tend to like to do seem to cost more money than necessary. Don’t you agree? This is one reason why becoming a monk sounds so appealing– you can get away from it all. Let go of every desire and earthly possession and find enlightenment– NIRVANA — in the footsteps of Siddhartha Gautama. Boy, that’s so much simpler than being in a footstep of a suffering Christian. LOL. I’m joking by the way so don’t get jumpy if this offense you. If you think you’ve seen a true hill tribe village, I dare take the challenge and ask you where and what do they do to sustain their life and tradition? If you are a foreigner and was guided to hill tribe village, I’d have to say you haven’t truly seen a hill tribe village at all. What a tourist sees is meant “for the eyes of the tourist only”. Get out of the beaten path where villages are prepared for tourist (The Long Neck Villages being the worst of them– I’ll write about this again soon) and find out the truth for yourselves. There’s so much more to lovely Thailand and the hill tribe than what has already been prepared for the ordinary tourist. If you want to know more, just ask.

The Karens in Na Sai are some of the most productive people I can think. Far from lazy, these people should be our prime example of “sustainable economy”. Even without the silver business, they would survive and they’re doing just that by reverting to what they know best– farming. Everyone Karen at Na Sai village own or operate some type of plantation or cash crop throughout the year, rice being the crop as this is is the staple of their diet. 80% of the rice harvest by each family is retained for consumption throughout the year, the rest is sold. Other plants grown throughout the season: Longan, Potato, มันสําปะหลัง, Cassava, Tomatoes, Corn and others I can’t think of at this very moment. Aside from plants, they also raise livestock for trade and consumption; pigs, chickens, cows, etc. It’s truly amazing! Every time I visit, the Karens are into something, planting something new, experimenting on some other projects… Sometimes I worry about where the silver craft is headed as I was concerned the Karens relied on this more than anything– I was wrong! They don’t “NEED” to silversmith but rather prefer to do it as they have more fun and it is more rewarding. Their lives will be just as well without manufacturing silver, however over the last decade their silver craft peaked in demand that the idea absorbed everyone and every household in the village. My visit in 2005 was filled with ambient sounds of hammering and humming of machinery stringing and pressing silver material. It was difficult to hear anything else but artisans laughing and giggle while they work. My latest visit in January 2012, all is so quiet that even sounds children quarreling across the village is heard in echoes. I suppose it’s like anything, there’s Ups and there’s Downs. The Karens are perfectly fine with this. It’s a down time and it’s time to rest up a little bit before the next wave come in…

For many months I’ve prayed for my friends the Karen artisans but I know now that it’s not the villagers that need my prayers most. It is my customers and the countries in which they live. It’s America and Europe that I need to pray for. Something happened in 2008 and it happened for a reason. We will learn from whatever mistake we made regardless if we want to or not. Like I mentioned earlier “greed and selfishness will ultimately lose out to truth and compassion”.

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Posted by byHillTribe on June 1, 2012

Top selling hill tribe silver pendants

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This is a continuation of our “TOP SELLING HILL TRIBE SILVER PRODUCTS” list. We have created a list (individual blog post) of top selling item by category. The images below are our top selling silver charms and silver pendants. We’ve comprised this list based on it’s popularity with our customers with a minimum criteria of 500 grams sold with from January 2011 through March of 2012. Please do some research in your own area before making purchases of these items. Although we have sold a lot of these items, they were not sold to only 1 person but many customers from every corner of the world. Some items may sell well in Europe and may not sell at all in the US. If you are in the jewelry industry, you should know who your customers are and what they desire from your store. This is just a list to give you an idea of what we’ve sold most in recent months. Please use this list at your own discretion.

Hovering over the thumbnails below should reveal the item number at within our browser. Clicking on the thumbnail will show the larger image of the product. You can find the item number on your browser’s title bar. Please feel free to visit our site at Silver-by-HillTribe.com to review it’s product description and current price.

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