TOBACCO OR BETEL BOX (CHELPA), MALAY PENINSULA, LATE 19TH CENTURY, SILVER WITH BORDERS OVERLAID WITH SUASA (A COPPER-GOLD ALLOY) AND A CENTRAL PLAQUE OF GOLD FILIGRE, (D) 7.5 CM. AUTHOR’S COLLECTION. PHOTO: BY THE AUTHOR – TAASA Review June 2022
Henry Ling Roth, the celebrated British ethnologist, published his much-referenced book on the silverwork of the Malay Peninsula, Oriental Silverwork – Malay and Chinese: A Handbook for Connoisseurs, Collectors, Students and Silversmiths, in 1910.
Oriental Silverwork (reprinted in 1966 and again in 1993) has been the standard reference on Malay silver for more than a hundred years during which time, Roth’s observations typically have been repeated uncritically, and as fact.
Longevity has imbued Roth’s work with credibility but that has been a mistake. One problem is that Oriental Silverwork covers only the silverwork of one part of the Malay world – that of the Malay Peninsula...