In the past, social status was linked to the possession of silver and brass ware fashioned for adornment and daily use.
The classic brassware made in Terengganu is one of the most time-consuming crafts traditionally involving the lost-wax methoc and a display of skills. Nowadays, sandcasting is also practised.
Terengganu's legacy in brass is believed to have originated with Chinese artisans who migrated from Funan, China. It is a mixture of white brass, yellow brass and zinc. White brass ware is produced by mixing brass with certain alloys; and finished brass articles are usually smoothed using a machine. Some are decorated with carvings, though most Terengganu brass ware is only decorated at the edges.
The finest are from Kelantan where filigree or repousse silver are wrought into exotic tea/coffee serving sets, jewelry as well as presentation pieces worthy of a Sultan's istana. The silversmith melts the silver and pours the molten metal into a broad and shallow wooden mold. The pieces of silver are hammered according to the required design, and a mixture of resin, wax and powered clay is poured into the mold and left to solidify. The silversmith then begins carving a pattern on the silver's surface with a chisel. Motifs such as flower petals, leaves and coiled branches are some of the hallmarks of Malaysian silverware.
The craftsmen produce a wide but unique range of candlestick holders, water pitchers, plates, trays, fruit bowls, ashtrays, souvenir items, etc. Each piece is painstakingly handcrafted by the experienced and delicate touch of high skilled brass craftmen, giving it a high aesthetic value, thus making it a collector's item.
Malaysia's long tradition of beautiful brass ware has now taken on a new lease of life. Among the many articles available are betel-nut boxes, rose water sprinklers and finger bowls.
Hammered out so delicately and beautifully, the decorative patterns of Malaysian silver and brass ware project a style that sets it apart from products of other countries.