The Art of Golden Triangle Jewelry

femme yao avec bijoux traditionnels en argent massif
Photos from the book "The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand" Jess G. Pourret

The traditional jewelry of the ethnic groups of the golden triangle

The ethnic groups of the golden triangle, living between Laos, Burma and northern Thailand, are known for their very beautiful traditional silver jewelry.

Jewels like clothes indicate the ethnicity to which the person belongs. And the quantity of jewels informs about the situation of the family.

Each ethnic group has its jewels which tell through shapes and patterns: its history, its origin, its myths and its beliefs.

femmes Yao Mien ethnie du triangle d'or avec leurs costumes et bijoux traditionnels
jeunes femmes Miao au festival du repas des soeurs en Chine
photo of the book: "the Art of Silver Jewelery From the Minorities of China, the Golden Triangle, Mongolia and Tibet"

Silver this precious metal

The ethnic groups of the golden triangle lend protective and even medicinal properties to silver.

This white metal symbolizes beauty, wealth, but it also wards off evil spirits, heals and protects the souls of the person who wears it (Hmong and Yao/Mien)

Among the Hmong, the shaman during the soul calling ceremony uses silver chains and padlocks to heal and protect people.

cadenas hmong bijoux traditionnels du triangle d'or
Old Hmong padlocks
boucles d'oreilles traditionnelles ethnie Hmong
Ancient traditional earrings of the Hmong ethnic group (photos from the book: The Art of Silver Jewelery from the golden triangle))

Patterns and meanings

All these ethnic groups are originally animists and even if some have become Buddhists today, they continue to worship the spirits of ancestors and nature.

This is why the motifs that are most often found are animals, plants, dragons, phoenixes, fish, ... and each of them has its own meaning.

They are often very stylized and sometimes only the chiefs and elders of the village still know what they represent.

illustration by Jan Wartena from embroidered designs
femmes et petites filles de la tribu lanten
lanten women and girls, northern Laos region

The jewels are transmitted from mother to daughter and constitute the dowry. Even if these practices are lost, they are still very present in certain rural and mountainous regions, far from cities.

village de la tribu Akha dans les montagnes du triangle d'or
Akha village mountains of the golden triangle
collier avec pendentif artisanal en argent massif. Pendentif traditionnel de l'ethnie Hmong : le cadenas
Pure silver Hmong padlock made by Karen craftsmen

Traditional ancestral craftsmanship preserved

Thanks to the craftsmen of the Karen ethnic group, the traditional jewelery of the tribes of the golden triangle has not disappeared, and this millennial work unique in the world, a true cultural heritage of humanity, continues to exist today. .

torque en argent pur N° 4
Traditional torc handcrafted in pure silver by Karen artisans

Some ethnicities of the golden triangle

petite filles lizu nord de la Thaïlande

Little Lizu

Little girls from the Lizu ethnic group in Northern Thailand on the road to Mae Hong Son.

femme u-mien nord laos

Wife U Mine

Magnificent and rich adornment of this woman U Mien (Yao) married to the village chief in the North of Laos towards Luang Nam Tha.

femme lanten nord laos

Woman Lanten

Woman of the Lanten ethnic group in northern Laos wearing the traditional jewelry of this tribe also called: people of the rivers.

femme ethnie Akha nord Laos

Akha woman

Akha women are easily recognized by their headdress, often embellished with French silver coins dating from the Indochina era. Met in the North of Laos, it is from her that we bought the small seed bracelets that we sometimes offer to our customers.

femme de la tribu karen tissant

Wife Karen

The Karen don't wear much silver jewelry traditionally. Some Karen women used to wear very beautiful spreaders, but not the new generations anymore. On the other hand, they remain very faithful to their traditional clothes, which are very recognizable.


If you want to know more about the ancient jewels of the golden triangle, I recommend this superb book. You will also find a wealth of information on ethnic groups with this superb book: "People of the Golden Triangle: Six Tribes in Thailand" by Eliane Lewis

Are you curious?

Go to meet karen , take a walk in the Karen Village in northern Thailand, discover the stages of the artisanal manufacture of silver jewelry

A question ?

We are at your disposal, send us a message :-)