Decoding Hilltribe Silver Symbols
The most common symbol found in many hilltribe silver pieces is the chakra flower, often labeled simply as ‘flower print’. It looks like a dot surrounded by 6 dots of the same size and has been used repeatedly throughout traditional Hill Tribe Silver pieces.
The artisans call this symbol the ‘Pod Duang’, although this is a misnomer since ‘Pod Duang’ actually refers to Siamese Bullet Money. The symbol is one among several dozen unique patterns that have been officially identified on the ancient coins. However, it is believed that the six dots surround a single dot originate from the Rattanakosin period in Thai History.
Just like Shiana’s hilltribe silver, the Pod Duang (Bullet Money) was created with .999 fine silver. They were popular from 1569 to 1767 in Siam and looked like a bar that was pinched, forming a hole so that it could be strung up and easily carried. As beaders may have already guessed, this also naturally made them popular as jewelery.
Originally, most modern Hilltribe silver jewelry pieces were made to copy ancient styles for the purpose of being sold in antique shops alongside authentic pieces. Strung up bullet money bracelets and necklaces were certainly among those items. Many stamps of ancient symbols were recreated for this purpose but the reason the 7 dots seem to gain more favor was for two reasons: one, it was a rare and sought after symbol by collectors and two, it represented the 7 chakras on the human body.
By stamping this on their silver the Karen artisans are not only hinting at the link between their new silver pieces and the ancient silver work of a bygone era, they are also blessing it with the chakra symbol for balance and prosperity.
We loved the symbol and thought it captured the spirit of hilltribe silver perfectly, so much so that in 1999 Shiana used it as part of our logo as the decorative portion of the peacock’s feathers:
We hope you enjoyed that little bit of history, it was certainly a lot of fun tracking down the source of the symbol. Take care and happy beading!