Fine Aceh-Style Silver Belt with Pierced Panels & Buckle
Straits Chinese, Singapore
length: 64cm, weight: 257g
Belts such as these were worn by Straits Chinese women folk (nonyas), particularly in Singapore but also the other Straits Settlements of Malacca and Penang, in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Made of solid silver, such belts were directly influenced by the marriage belts worn by indigenous brides in south Aceh in the northern tip of Sumatra, and also worn by localised Chinese in Aceh. Accordingly, they became known as ‘Aceh-style’ belts.
This example comprises a buckle and a matching belt of fourteen panels. Each panel, including the buckle, is decorated with a peacock motif amid flowers and foliage. Each is finely pierced with further enhancement from engraving. (Peacocks were also the most usual motif used on wedding belts in Aceh.) The panels are linked to one another by silver loops.
Neither the buckle not the belt have assay or maker’s marks. The quality of each panel is consistent throughout and all are original; none are replacements. Singapore is the likely place of manufacture for this and other similar belts, although it might well have been exported to the Straits Settlements directly from Aceh. Certainly, there was much trade between Sumatra and Java and the Straits Settlements in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Chinese in Medan in Sumatra generally spoke Hokkien as did the Chinese in Penang which facilitated trade and family ties. And there were many family (and thus trade) links between the Straits Chinese of Singapore, and the
peranakan Chinese of Surabaya and Semarang particularly on Java. These links saw much cross-pollination in styles between the localised Chinese of the Malay peninsula and the localised Chinese of Sumatra and Java.
Chin, E., Gilding the Phoenix: The Straits Chinese and their Jewellery, The National Museum Singapore, 1991.
Hands of Time: The Crafts of Aceh, Penerbit Djambatan, 1989.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 2028
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