Regarded as being home to the best sterling silver jewellery artisans in the world, Indonesia has a rich history of unique handmade jewellery techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Using long-established manual techniques and hand tools, staying loyal to the legacy of their ancestors, silversmithing in Indonesia is both an ancient cultural tradition and a rarely explored craft.
Join Aquila Jewellery as we explore these honed silver jewellery making techniques which have played a key role in many of our silver collections since the brand’s inception.
A short history of Indonesian Jewellery
The historical origins of Indonesia date back some 40,000 years when the first people laid foot on the land. The country is composed of thousands of islands with Bali island as the place most associated with the production of silver jewellery.
Bali came about during its colonisation in 1293 by the Majapahit Empire of Java (1293 to 1520 AD). Kingdom ruler Hayam Wuruk, a leader with a huge amount of other territories to his name, brought over a plethora of artistic pursuits and Hindu-Javanese literature which helped inspire local art forms, explains Bali.com.
Over time, locals worked with precious metals using hand-held tools and learnt techniques together, passing down their learnt skills to children, close family, and neighbours - a method which still applies today according to this article from the Indonesian Cultural Heritage branch. Thus the handmade jewellery techniques stayed native to the villages in which they were born.
Indonesia was a country that traded with other countries over many centuries, as mentioned here, and there is no doubt that it saw contact with countless other cultures; therefore influencing the local artisans’ techniques, particularly during the Dutch colonial rule from 1602 and 300+ years onward.
And so a silversmithing heritage was developed over a large span of time, creating a generational bond and a cultural legacy.
The inspiration behind Balinese Jewellery
The Balinese took inspiration from Indonesian mythology in the past, a supernatural world alive with animal characters and deities - both good and evil. It was commonly spoken among the people that deities visited locals to instruct them how to fashion gold and silver which made way for the silversmithing methods we know today, explains Insightbali.
This ‘gift’ from the Gods is honoured through using the traditional techniques in contemporary times. In turn, the jewellery the local artisans make is considered a ‘gift’ to the Gods that once taught them.
Silver jewellery carries a deep symbolic meaning entrenched in traditional religious ceremonies and rituals carried out by natives. According to this article, It can also be worn as a shrine to God and as a display of social status.
Balinese jewellery artisans find inspiration from the world around them too. From the beauty of symmetry and shapes found in nature, animal forms, Hindu architecture, and statues as well as the design of ancient armour, there is not just one piece of the rich Balinese culture that influences their jewellery creation, it is the culmination of trade, culture, religion and the passage of time.
How is sterling silver jewellery made in Indonesia?
To make a sterling silver handmade ring, Indonesian artisans follow the method below:
- First, pure silver granules (92.5%) are added to 7.5% of copper and melted down to create a more durable and workable alloy (it is also where the 925 sterling silver stamp takes its name).
- It depends on what item of jewellery is being made and the technique applied as to what happens next, but with a sterling silver ring, the alloy will be slowly poured into a preformed mould. Once in shape, it is manually shaped and flattened using a flat-ended hammer on an anvil.
- The long flat piece of metal is then designed using a sharpened tool and hammer and heated with a foot-operated blow torch to set.
- Using pliers to hold it in place for the intricate work, the piece of silver is then placed on a rounded bar and hammered onto, beginning to bend the straight of the metal into the famous O shape that rings are known for.
- Now comes the soldering part which means additional silver parts can be added like granulation work (small dots) or filigree work (threading). Textures can also be added like hammering as found on our Agonda collection.
- To finish, the ring is refined by using various buffers by hand, which can sand down any uneven textures.
Here we can see an intricately crafted 925 sterling silver bar bracelet from InspiringJewelleryGB, made by artisans in Indonesia. The handmade decorative filigree and jawan work is a wonderful display of both skill and centuries-old techniques.
To see the work of Indonesian silversmiths in action take a look at these sterling silver oxidised globe dangle earrings with beautifully detailed filigree and jawan work on display from southpawstudios.
Aquila Jewellery and Indonesian jewellery techniques
Let’s take a look at some of the Aquila Jewellery pieces that show clear examples of Indonesian jewellery making techniques.
Fine Filigree work
Our statement 925 sterling silver and 18ct gold Kerala ring demonstrates the incredible skill of our artisans who have used fine filigree work in this piece. Notice the very careful soldering of delicate threads of metal as well as metal beads (filigree) in the design which form a beautiful symmetrical pattern.
The base metal of the ring is oxidised to create a differentiation of colour and texture to the filigree work.
When studying our open cuff 925 sterling silver Sydney bracelet, you can see how intricate spots of silver (Jawan) have created a unique texture in an almost engraved appearance in the design. Jawan is placed on the metal one spot at a time using glue to affix them in position.
A wave-like pattern is formed in a symmetrical way across the bracelet front. The back presents a polished plain back used to contrast against the decorative front.
This ancient technique sees artisans apply extremely refined specks of metal to the jewellery piece, to make a design. Usually placed on an oxidised or darker silver background, these tiny spheres of silver are polished to create further depth of appearance.
Granulation is similar to Jawan but the dots of silver are much smaller.
Our popular large mixed metal Agra studs display jawan work as well as granulation as the design showcases this intricate metalwork in concentric circles.
The contrast of 925 sterling silver beadwork and the polished 18k circle in the centre of the design highlights the differentiation between both the metal and the techniques used.
All in all…
What a journey through Indonesia and Bali, discovering the influences and techniques of silversmithing that exist as prevalently back then as they do today!
In an exotic whirlwind of cultural, natural, spiritual and supernatural elements coming together, Indonesian artisans have formed a legacy in the world of jewellery that shall forever leave a mark on our land.