Thai jewellery art from prehistoric period until Rattanakosin era has been created for humans. But it is not created to only present finest craftsmanship or for decoration. According to archeological and anthropological evidence, it can be assumed that jewellery is one of the very first ways men used to represent their sense of beauty and to build their relationship with community and surroundings. The most important thing is the purpose of the jewellery which is to worship sacred souls of nature and self by using “body” to drive “internal context.” This article aims to present ideas supported by principles and to discuss processes important to knowledge of jewellery art. This is for ascendants to be able to bring back fading importance of jewelry art to its glory once again. History of Thai jewellery art has started 50,000-1,700 years ago. Necklaces and bracelets made of shells and bones are discovered in graves of both men and women. celtic horse necklace in 925 sterling silver, As for the reason why jewellery is often buried with the dead, cultural anthropologists point that people in those days believed that death might be a form of life continuity, similar to Brahman (a religion founded after Buddhism) who believe that souls of the dead will be reborn. Jewellery should then follow those who passed away to serve them in the next life. Spoo-Design
Men do not only try to understand their environment by reshaping it, they also study characteristics of individuals and communities. This can be seen from spaces systematically arranged for culture until men can defeat the chaos of the nature. In a study on an evolution of civilisation, this idea appears in the form of belief. Men blend themselves with the traditions they practise, planted in each man until “customs” are formed. Jewellery or mysterious objects thus become a symbol of this combined worship. This is because it is closest to men’s bodies and best expresses human behaviours. Eventhough men always reorganise and improve their customs and traditions, the belief in the power of objects remains. It is reflected from the fact that they continue to create superstitious objects for the worship of the souls and life. Boundary of the belief is limited by religious rituals which are supported by cultural objects, jewellery. The belief is preserved in the form of folktales as well as pictures representing relationships between men, nature, power and the world. This importance is a condition for men to choose an alternative best fit with the context, for example, materials, forms, colours, symbols.
Nevertheless, the ritual cannot be without “body.” This is because the body is the first place where interactions take place and touches with the jewellery. At the same time, the body brings out internal context of the jewellery to complete this worship for purity of the souls. For an intended worship, the superstitious materials of the prehistoric men are the basis of the belief before verbal communications, reflected through language, images and forms. Therefore, cultural objects are represented by beauty of structure, timing, or eternity in symbolic forms. These symbols are related to stories. Jewellery is the result of men’s intention to worship the sacred souls wholeheartedly.
Jewellery is created, from prehistory to today, for 4 important objectives; to pay respect to status, to show moral support, to worship the rituals of life, and to celebrate the beauty of philosophy and aesthetics. Results of an analysis of these aspects will bring together images or forms of the legacy of the delicacy of Thai wisdom.
1. Jewellery as respect for status
Because Thai Buddhism culture is influenced by Brahman and Hindu, abstract beliefs are combined into attitudes. It is expressed through the faith in “ideal states,” states beyond the acknowledgement of the 5 senses. This state has the power to change the world, men or objects. Thai Buddhism culture pays attention to the status of individuals with individuality created by surreal power. Therefore, jewellery is a tool in worshipping these different states. Men adopt the above ideal and develop social ranking and status. This is for the purpose of communications and ruling, especially for the idea of a divine god.
2. Jewellery as a tool for moral support
This special tool of expression continues its duty. Now it is not only indicated status but full of internal power and forces. The images and beliefs of the jewellery bring superstitious power into itself. This kind of jewellery is not as expressive as the first one. It has its own place. This is because a wearer wants to hide the power and keep the moral support personal. Jewellery for moral support has a psychological effect on 3 aspects;
- Superstitious beliefs
3. Jewellery as a means to worship rituals of life
Consider life cycle: be born, grow old, fall ill and die, we will find that jewellery is one of the objects embracing cultural contexts, values and stories. Images and the soul of jewellery art, therefore, reflect each part of human life and timing. This type of jewellery aims to worship the relationships of individuals. It acts as a means to fulfil the stories of life and psychological functions. It allows the wearer to feel the importance of mind, body and environment as part of one another and traditions. It also represents physical elements of “publicity” which strengthen the unity of the community.
4. Jewellery as a celebration of the beauty of philosophy and aesthetics
What differentiates this kind of jewellery is that men start to look at jewellery as art and/or design. The influence of jewellery as an object of moral support is fading. Using jewellery as a way to express individuals play a more important role. Jewellery can be compared to a philosophical and aesthetical medium. The importance of skilled craftsmanship and attention to materials selection thus increases. Development of this kind of jewellery is distinct and outstanding from the prehistoric period until today. This kind of jewellery represents the motivation of unknown artistic elements; composition, design theories, and philosophy. Sometimes it travels beyond traditional practice. Jewellery is like a heart or imagination which expresses our feelings. It may change our thoughts, emotions and feelings. It also holds history and stories. Each man has his own tales and poems. He keeps these to himself until he finds a way to express them through jewellery. But jewellery requires special skills and materials in order to best reflect the thoughts and perceptions of the wearer.
As mentioned in the introduction that using jewellery as a means of worship cannot be successful without its relation to a body. This is because the body is the first place where the jewellery touches and is the first sensual gate; sights, sounds, smells, tastes, body and mind. The body is what moves the internal context of the jewellery and brings it out. The movement made while wearing a piece of jewellery might change the whole meaning of it; even before it is perceived, interpreted and completely expressed its essence. There have been delicate customs in using the body and spaces between the body and the jewellery from the prehistoric period until the Rattanakosin era. There are 4 aspects that should be mentioned.
- The belief that there is a sacred soul inside the body worth paying respect to and worshipping.
- Physical beauty: There are parts and spaces on or between the human body which should be worshipped by decoration. This sometimes includes establishing a new idealised beauty.
- Flaws on the body should be decorated or hidden.
- Something to carry, remind, remember by or recall one’s memory of the essence of worship.
Men would appreciate the internal context of the jewellery when they contemplate the results of their interactions with the jewellery, at the right time and right place. If the thought about the beauty of placing jewellery upon the body does not appear on the body, men then cannot feel the “rite of interaction” through any senses. This is because every element of the jewellery is created to comply with its internal context, with the attention that men would notice, perceive, communicate and interpret what they feel or see by observing its meaning through the senses and preparing for the worship of the souls.
The above condition shows the beautiful dynamic of the jewellery which can be perceived by sights, tastes, smells, sounds and touches. It aims to convey a message beyond beauty which helps men to understand the internal context. It is a perfect meeting between jewellery art and men. If a man doubts the eternity of the internal context of the jewellery when he touches it, will the meeting always be able to provide the answers? Is there anything else men need to know or learn about limitations if they cannot feel them when they first touch the jewellery? As Albert Einstein’s theory says that the beginning of things consists of the balanced relativity between “time and place” or time and space. They cannot be separated. This is because they are interdependent. Time and space determine measurement within the universe.
Another way of saying this is that time has a beginning and an end. And time also plays role in the living of the things in the universe. The results of this theory answer the questions on the art of jewellery and provide more understanding of the truth of matters in the universe. This is in addition to the essence of Buddhism which believes that nothing lasts forever and one thing cannot appear without another. What is the balanced “relativity” between the jewellery and a man who touches it in terms of the results of the worship? Every piece of jewellery must contain a symbol, implication, stimulation and/or evidence which can be explained as a means of communication. This interrelationship is formed by objectives, the rite of the interactions, including the revolving of time. Sometimes religious riddles hint at us at the answers. For example, if the object and/or its name is lost in time, the context would become a pure force. The jewellery is formless but remains in the mind of the man as long as he wants. This is because matters never disappear. They are part of each other regardless of the form. Following are examples from Thai jewellery art which give us interesting images of time and place.
o Indicates specific time and place in order to create the balance which lasts as long as the jewellery itself exists.
o Timeless but has specific place in order to create the balance which lasts as long as the jewellery itself or its wearer exists. Sometimes the jewellery can be created for no specific place. If it is lost, the context will become a pure force as if the jewellery is formless but remain in the mind of the wearer.
o Specific time and place, the jewellery creates the balance for only one time.
Eventhough the jewellery art has its context of worship; with specific place on the body, or within spaces between that body, which means the “place” is specified, the meeting of the two cannot be said as balanced. This is because if we carefully consider the creation of the jewellery, we will find that “time” also makes its conditions. Time may reveal to us some ultimate truths by traces or stains on materials. Place cannot do this but still both cannot be separated. Time and place give different aspects of knowledge and experiences of beauty. Therefore, complete knowledge on the worship requires balanced relativity between time and place.
To conclude, the knowledge and conclusions above are unique and beautiful identity of Thai jewellery art from the prehistoric period to Rattanakosin era. This article on the essence of jewellery is written with a strong intention that all the knowledge in it would challenge our feelings towards the objects which long has the relationships with us. The feelings we have from the touches of jewellery we have worn for so long, in the form of the worship with the pure hearts, make us learn and improve. Those feelings are still the basis which people or artists like us should praise, even forms and value might be changed due to cultural changes. The feelings remain along with the essence of the universe of jewellery. It is created to “worship the sacred souls of the nature,” using the “body” to shine the “internal context on the balanced state of time and place.” The lights reflect on each of them forever.
Assistant Professor. Dr. Supavee Sirin-k-raporn
Thai jewellery art from prehistoric period until Rattanakosin era has been created for human. But it is not created to only present finest craftsmanship or for decoration. According to archeological and anthropological evidence, it can be assumed that jewellery is one of the very first ways men use to represent their sense of beauty and to build their relationship with community and surroundings. The most important thing is the purpose of the jewellery which is to worship sacred souls of nature and self by using “body” to drive “internal context.”