Who are the Hill Tribes of Thailand?


The Golden Triangle region in Northern Thailand (where Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet) is home to 7 major hill tribe groups, each with its own unique customs, language, dress and spiritual beliefs. While the majority of tribes are long term refugees from neighboring Myanmar, others trace their heritage to remote regions of Thailand, Tibet, Laos, & China.

Most of the hill tribes migrated into Thailand over the past 100 years, but they have largely preserved their traditional ways and customs, preferring to live above 1,000 meters in simple bamboo huts. They are usually recognized for their colorful and unique costume and jewelry.

There are seven broad hill tribe groupings: Karen, Lahu, Hmong, Lisu, Akha, Mien, and Padaung. However, within these categories, there are smaller sub-categories and clans. At Siam Traditions, we source all of our jewelry from members of the Akha Tribe.


The Akha Hill Tribe People

Population: approx 50,000,
Origin: Tibet / Myanmar

The Akha Hill Tribe have historically been among the most impoverished of all the hill tribes in Thailand. This is primarily due to their resistance to adapting Thai culture and modern technology. The Akha came to Thailand in the early 20th century, to escape their persecution in Burma.

We can honestly say, having visited the village ourselves on numerous occasions, the Akha are probably the nicest and most hospitable people we’ve ever met,  and truly made us feel “welcome” throughout our time in the village.

The Akha a have an extraordinary unique and extensive oral literature tradition, in which they can recall and recite stories from their ancestors dating back numerous generations. The women are famous for their beautiful and colorful headdresses, adorned with intricately detailed silver. Traditionally, silver jewelry was kept as a store of wealth (similar to gold) along with helping to attract potential suitors to young women.

What is Hill Tribe Silver?

Hill Tribe artisan silver is a high quality silver collection crafted in the hills of northern Thailand by the Akha Hill Tribe. Heavily inspired by the traditions of old world Asia, the collection fuses traditional harvest themes with tribal patterns, shapes, and symbols, giving it an authentic old world look and feel.

Hill Tribe silver is classified as a ‘fine’ silver, with a purity level ranging from 92.5% – 95% silver. Each piece is soft and easy to shape to your wrist or finger, while still maintaining the original ascetic quality.

How’s it made?

Pure silver ingots are flattened out on an anvil by repeatedly pounding the ingots with hammers. This leaves the silver in a thin long sheet (similar to sheet metal).

Usually, Akha Hill Tribe Silver goes through an additional oxidation process. This causes the silver items to turn completely black. The silver is then polished back to life, leaving the black coloring only in the intricate grooves of the piece, this allows tiny details and patterns to stand out.

Photography credit: “Hill Tribes In Thailand” by IslandGyrl – licensed under CC BY 2.0