Support Fair Trade Jewelry Artisans – Mien Tribe – During Fair Trade Month

October is well known as breast cancer awareness month, it is lesser known as Fair Trade month. Fair Trade can be supported by:

– Purchasing goods which are designated fair trade products and/or produced by fair trade organizations
– Learning more about Fair Trade and Fair Trade Artisans

In a previous article the Karen Tribe was highlighted as one such group of fair trade jewelry producers. In this article, another fair trade jewelry artisan group the Mien will be featured.

The lu Mien are heavily influenced by Chinese culture and are believed to have originated from southern China. At least a million Mien are still living in China with settlements also found in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. In Thailand the Mien are primarily residing to the north of Chiang Rai or Phavao province.

At the latter half of the 19th century, the lu Mien arrived in Thailand from Laos. Unlike many other tribes, there are no sub-tribal groups within the Mien population. As a result there is little difference in the customary dress and appearance among the group. A woman’s outfit would include a black turban and a red ruff which has the appearance of a boa even though it is sewn into the front part of the tunic’s collar. The woman’s pants are heavily embroidered and are worn underneath a black or dark blue colored tunic that extends to the ankle. The outfit is tied with a wide sash. Women and children also wear silver neck rings with chains of silver ornaments attached that extend down their back.

For the Mien silver jewelry is more than an adornment, it is also a statement of status and wealth. The silver jewelry worn by a young Mien woman helps a suitor to decide on a prospective bride. Skilled silversmiths handcraft silver into intricate chains and petite flowers creating exquisite pieces of handmade silver jewelry that a Mien bride will wear in a heavy cascade down her back.

Many fair trade jewelry retailers support the Mien jewelry artisans and in doing so help maintain the high craft skills of a justly product ethnic culture while also enabling them to earn an income to support their families.

Add A Dash of India to Your Jewelry Chest

India, one of the oldest civilizations, and its inherent multi-cultural society, Indian art and crafts have charmed many with their colorful traditions and versatility. India today is pulsating with the new vigor of economic and technological growth, yet the taste of traditions has survived unscathed. This is quite evident in the designing and manufacturing of gemstones jewelry in India.

The jewelry making crafts have a history of no less than 5000 years in India, when the man learnt to chisel flint stones into weapons for hunting, he also developed skills to fashion items of body d├ęcor. You can see highly ornamental jewelry articles excavated from the 5000 years old human settlement from the places called Mohan-jodaro and Harappa ( now known as Indus valley civilization) in the national museum of New Delhi. You cannot help marveling at the level of skills of the craftsmen of such an ancient age.

For some unknown reasons, the Indus valley civilization became extinct around 35oo years ago and a new civilization appeared , and it is populary known as the vedic age. It is during the vedic age that oldest Indian scriptures “Vedas” are supposed to have originated. It is the “vedic” Indians who perfected “yoga” system of mind and body training. This was the golden age of intellectual, political and economic development of the Indian sub-continent.

Subsequently, many tribes and peoples from beyond Hindukush ( now Afghanistan) invaded India for its fabled wealth. Some went back with spoils of wars, but many remained and slowly became indigenized. This cultural miscegenation brought multiple cultural and artistic influences from Greece ( Alexander’s Greece), central Asia, Mongolia and Persia. You can see still the influences of Indian history in the traditional crafts of India even today. The traditional jewelry artisans have imbibed many diverse influences in their designs and craftsmanship and as a result Indian handcrafted jewelry has found admirers from across the world.