Hanoi has four famous trades exhibited in the verse “Yen Thai clothing, Bat Trang pottery, Dinh Cong goldsmithing, Ngu Xa copper.” Having peaked in history, Dinh Cong goldsmithing has already faded. Currently, silversmithing in Dinh Cong is still preserved by the Quach family in the village.
Ha Thai village (Duyen Thai commune, Thuong Tin district, Hanoi) is renowned for its lacquer paintings and other handicrafts
In Dinh Cong village, artisan Quach Phan Tuan Anh creates sophisticated silver masterpieces every day. Working in a small shop behind the pagoda, he is one of a few artisans to exercise the long-standing trade handed down by their ancestors.
Dinh Cong artisans are famous nationwide for their goldsmithing technique. When silver became the main material for making silver masterpieces, silversmithing came into being. Before the French colonial era, more than half of Dinh Cong families lived on this traditional trade. Later, due to insufficient materials for production, many silversmiths had to switch to agriculture and some other jobs. Silversmithing gradually fell into oblivion.
Mr. Anh’s silversmithing workshop is inside a temple that worships the jewelry ancestor. Currently, the workshop employs six young workers. They work industriously and sophisticatedly to shape and perfect products. Anh said that silversmiths are persistent, industrious, meticulous and creative to make products. Unlike industrial silver products that are mass-produced, silversmithing is manual. A silver product is very elaborately processed. The most popular products are rings, necklaces and earrings which usually take three days to get completed. Meanwhile, a silver painting often takes months to complete. Silversmiths can’t make them without enough care. They meticulously make products one-by-one.
To have these skills, a craftsman usually studies for at least two years and the learning time depends on their dedication, dexterity and aesthetic sense. Therefore, not many people are successful in this career. Just a few of them are persistent enough to follow the profession and are employed to work in his workshop. To date, his workshop has over a dozen skilled craftsmen who can work independently to make aesthetic masterpieces. As it takes a long time to complete a product and silver is typically expensive, the price of a silver product is also relatively high.
Dedicated to this career, Anh has seen chances to have this profession restored. Previously, silversmiths were much concerned about how to sell their products; the market demand for them is now relatively stable. Most products are decorative besides jewelries. Customers across the country have bought his products as gifts or souvenirs for customers, partners and relatives. Currently, his workshop cannot fully meet the demand.
To restore the traditional silversmithing, artisans in Dinh Cong village like Anh have spent a lot of time and effort. Above all, with constant devotion and creativity, they not only keep their career but also develop silversmithing to a new level, thus regaining a foothold for a trade that used to be very thriving.
By Minh Ngoc, Vietnam Business Forum