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    Heavy Thai Niello Silver (Thom Ngoen) Bowl

    19th century-early 20th century

    diameter: 15cm, height: 8cm, 447g



    UK art market

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This Thai silver niello (thom ngoen) bowl is unusually heavy for its size. It feels surprisingly and noticeably heavy in the hand. It has a rounded rather than a flat bottom and is probably based on the form of half a large coconut. The exterior is decorated with an interlocking lai dok phuttan (flower) motif which Bromberg (2019, p. 53) has identified as the cotton rosemallow flower (phuttan). The base is also elaborately decorated.

    The niello technique, whereby silver is chased and then coated in a black enamel-like substance that is then buffed back to reveal the raised silverwork beneath, is thought to have been introduced to Thailand either by the Portuguese or the Persians. Traders from both countries had an early presence in the Kingdom. Niello work became a speciality of the southern Thai city of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

    A similar style bowl is illustrated in Fraser-Lu (1989, p. 42).

    The bowl has a fine patina. There are minor, age-related losses to some of the niello, but overall, this is a fine example.

    Note: This actual bowl is illustrated in Bromberg (2019, p. 53).


    Bromberg, P., Thai Silver and Nielloware, River Books, 2019.

    Byachrananda, J., Thai Mother-of Pearl Inlay, River Books, 2001.

    Fraser-Lu, S., Silverware of South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, 1989.

    Naengnoi Punjabhan,  Silverware in Thailand, Rerngrom Publishing, 1991.

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