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Silver Niello Lightning Goddess Earring 1950s from Siam

Create a storm in the unique Vintage Sterling silver earrings. Made in old Siam in the 1950s these statement ear pendants are so wearable. The earrings have three black Niello work triangular panels each depicting a Goddess and one of these ladies is certainly Mekkala, the Goddess of Lightning with sparks flying from her fingertips! The three sided pendant swings nicely from the brand new Balinese Sterling Silver ear wires. These fun earrings came to me on broken ear screw devices so it is fresh and hygienic to pop them onto brand new wires ready for wear for those who prefer pierced fittings on their vintage earrings. These are earrings to be noticed measuring 2 and a quarter inches from the top curve of the ear wire to the bottom of the silver drop. Across they are half an inch at their widest point. These earrings are in excellent order .

More about Siam Silver Jewellery and Niello

Siam Sterling jewellery of this kind for the modern mass market was manufactured, usually by highly skilled artisans, from the 1930s through the 1980s. It was very popular in the 1950-60s. Although Siam officially changed its name to Thailand in the 1940s, the “Siam” description for this kind of work is well known. The designs incorporated traditional images such as Thai dancers, gods and goddesses, elephants, peacocks and dragon boats. Jewellery available included brooches and pins, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, cufflinks and tie pins as well as small decorative pieces such as compacts and pill boxes. 

American and British soldiers who visited Thailand in the mid-20th century bought this jewellery as gifts for their loved ones back home, making it a popular mid-century trend. This trend was likely helped further by the popular 20th Century Fox Film - The King and I. Rogers and Hammerstein had written the Musical and Yul Brynner starred as the King of Siam with  Deborah Kerr as the governess to his children. The 1956 love story would certainly have added to the desirability of wearable costume jewellery from Siam. The decorative jewellery is usually in Sterling Silver being 925/1000 parts pure silver. 

Niello is a method whereby a deep black metal mixture, which melts at a lower temperature than silver is fused onto the metal for decorative effect. The skilled jeweller prepares a silver base with distinctive channels and engraved areas and the molten black metal then fills the crevices on the silver base. Once polished a detailed, contrasting jewel results.  Lower levels of sulphur in the black compound give a more grey colour. The contrast of the lustrous black inlay against either matte or polished metal is striking and has resulted in niello being considered an expert decorative technique.  The actual technique dates back several thousand years and was known by the Egyptians, Greeks, Celts, Romans Persians and Byzantines. Roman Pliny mentions a method used by ancient Egyptians to blacken silver. The technique of true Niello was perfected by the Italians in the 16th Century and the methods were documented. Many of the Italian silver religious ornaments of that time were produced using  Niello work.  The name stems from the Latin Nigellum for black. 

Siam silver jewellery is also seen finished in true enamel; so the base work is similar but instead of the black Niello a coloured enamel (most often in shades of white, yellow, blue or red) is used.

Silver Niello Lightning Goddess Earring 1950s from Siam
Silver Niello Lightning Goddess Earring 1950s from Siam Silver Niello Lightning Goddess Earring 1950s from Siam Silver Niello Lightning Goddess Earring 1950s from Siam Silver Niello Lightning Goddess Earring 1950s from Siam

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