04 June 2016: The Jewelry of Southeast Asia

Lavish colour illustrations…For collectors of Asian jewellery as well as contemporary jewellery designers seeking inspiration, there is everything. – Jeweller

Because of the way it’s sometimes presented, in a pedantic and dry retelling of things past, history is often perceived as a stuffy subject for many people. A good teacher or a well written book can, however, make all the difference, and turn history into an entertaining and engaging topic. Our featured book, The Jewelry of Southeast Asia, is an excellent case in point. Lavishly-illustrated, the book is a comprehensive account of the royal and museum collections of dazzling jewellery* in Southeast Asia.

Due in part to its beauty as well as its longevity, people throughout history have always bedecked themselves with different forms of jewellery – from simple accessories made of animal parts, coloured stones, seashells and beads, to opulent pieces crafted from precious stones and metals. Although its main purpose, in ancient times, was to ward off evil, jewellery was also used as body ornaments in the form of necklaces, buckles, pendants, rings, bracelets, ear ornaments, hairpins, anklets and torques.

A young Balinese dancer, early 20th century, wearing a gold crown embellished with fresh flowers, with armlets of a traditional Balinese design with Garuda motifs.

A young Balinese dancer, early 20th century, wearing a gold crown embellished with fresh flowers, with armlets of a traditional Balinese design with Garuda motifs.

Visually exploring the territories of Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, author Anne Richter has produced a captivating catalog of jewellery in history, from the magnificent imperial gold pieces of Burma and Thailand to the simple adornments worn by remote hill peoples. Her understanding of the symbolism of these historical examples sheds light on Asian cultures, and how they are also expressions of political power, markers of social and religious status and talismans for deflecting ill fortune.

To make it more accessible, this new paperback edition, first published in 2000, concentrates on the colour plates with illuminating captions, and includes a new introduction which describes how history played a role in influencing jewellery. With 357 illustrations, out of which 353 are in colour, the aesthetic appeal of the overall presentation will make this volume essential reading for all jewellery lovers.

About the author: Anne Richter lectured in Art and Design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She also co-wrote Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago.

*Although jewelry is the preferred spelling in American English, jewellery is preferred in varieties of English from outside North America.