Sukhothai is a beautiful a city in Thailand. It houses the ruins of the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom that was established around 1238 and lasted until around 1438. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage historical park. The remains of the ancient civilization exist today in the form of ancient temples and ruins, Sukhothai antiques, Sukhothai plates, Sukhothai bowls and Sukhothai jars.
Thailand has a long history of ceramic art. Various locations have remnants of early pottery, porcelain and other art works of the Thais. There are many classifications of Thai ceramics but among the identified groups, the Sukhothai ceramics stand out as one of the most important.
They were created during the Sukhothai kingdom period in the area where this once-prosperous kingdom was centered (north, central Thailand). Archaeologists, experts and collectors originally classified ceramics from that period to be known simply as “Sukhothai antiques, Sukhothai jars, Sukhothai plates and Sukhothai bowls. Eventually though, further distinction of the artifacts was developed.
Most Sukhothai antiques, such as the Sukhothai plates and Sukhothai bowls, are found scattered in two areas of the Sukhothai kingdom. The kiln sites are primary locations of ancient jars, antiques and other artifacts. The kilns are located around the northern wall of the ancient city, and also in Sri Satchanalai. Now, these two areas are archaeological sites and museums and exhibitions are frequently held in the area.
The production of sukhothai antiques, sukhothai plates, sukhothai bowls and sukhothai jars is estimated to have begun around the thirteenth century AD, alongside the fall and subsequent decline of the Khmer empire. By 15th century, China, the leading ceramics producer, faced a crisis that led to Sukhothai ceramics being given an advantage in export markets.
Eventually, Sukhothai wares reached their neighbors as far away as the Philippines, Indonesia, China and many other destinations in Southeast Asia. Exported by sea, many unsuccessful voyages saw the ancient Chinese and Asian trading vessels containing collections of Sukhothai wares sink to the bottom of the ocean. Some of these have been recovered from the ocean many centuries after, and they still remain in excellent condition.
By the 16th century, the production and export of Sukhothai antiques, Sukhothai plates, Sukhothai bowls and Sukhothai jars was discontinued because of continuous wars between the Kingdom of Ayutthaya and the Burmese Kingdom. Another significant historical event was the revival of Chinese wares, ceramics and porcelain which were once again exported to the world markets.
Today, the best quality and most beautiful samples of Sukhothai ceramics are handled by private collectors. These are highly valuable nowadays and much sought after by collectors worldwide. Their value lies in their unique beauty, the expertise in the handicraft and their history dating back some 700 years to the Ancient Sukhothai Kingdom.
When you think of Bangkok, you automatically think “shopping!” because it is the destination to buy all kinds of things such as Khmer antiques, Thai antiques, handicrafts, clothes, artworks, jewelry, etc.
Out of all the other top Asian tourist destinations, Bangkok comes out number one for shopping thanks to its wide selection of malls, boutiques, markets and stalls. Plus, the people are friendly and welcoming to foreigners! The vendors love to bargain with buyers and this makes the experience more exciting. You can get bargain prices for quality goods in Bangkok.
Shoppers who visit Bangkok will find a wealth of goods to buy. Some of these shoppers look for antiques, particularly Khmer antiques. There are many stores and places to buy all kinds of antiques that come from all over Asia in Bangkok. There are also authentic Thai antiques. Though these items are hot selling items in the market, there is an export ban on particular pieces like religious relics.
For instance, the Buddha statues, images and other artifacts are often banned from export. If you want to buy Khmer antiques and bring it to another country, you need to go to a legitimate antique store and acquire an export license. That way, you can pass through customs without hassle. Reputable dealers will tell you about the needed documents and restrictions.
Here are some places you can check out if you want to go shopping for Khmer antiques and other antiques as well:
Chan’s Antique House – This is one of the oldest antique stores in Phuket. They have been in business ever since antiques began to be established in the Thai market. This store is often frequented by serious buyers of Khmer antique, Thai antiques and other antiques from Laos, Burma, etc. It has good reputation and is still standing after more than fifteen years of success in the antique business. The items are of quality craftsmanship and skill. There are many collections of antiques made of bronze, wood, stone and marble at this shop.
The Fine Orient – This antique store specializes in vintage items, collector’s items and Oriental antiques. There are key pieces mostly from China but there are also Khmer antiques, Thai antiques and the like.
In Bangkok, you will find many other stores to buy antiques. If you go to legitimate and
reputable dealers, they will tell you which ones are authentic and which ones are reproductions of Khmer antiques, Thai antiques and other antiques being sold.
Benjarong is a special type of porcelain originating from Thailand. It is basically painted porcelain and it has a combination of at least three to eight colors. “Benjarong” means “five colors”. This is one of the rarest and most authentic Thai ceramics that are highly sought after today. The traditional ones are now valued antiques! The designs are quite intricate.
Normally, one will see geometric designs and floral designs that are often, repetitive on a Benjarong. The Benjarong design is then named after the color that was used as background. For instance, Thai ceramics (Benjarong type) that has a dark blue background is called “Phum Kao Bin”.
The production of these porcelain antiques is a most thorough and intense process. First, the enamel colors are painted on the porcelain. The background is first set and followed by the combination of other colors to create a unique, Thai design. These Thai ceramics are then glazed over to create a distinctive “swelling effect” on the surface.
The process of production of these porcelain antiques requires intensive labor. Each of these colors is applied intricately. Every piece is fired by kiln once the color has been applied. The method of firing up the Thai ceramics makes the vibrancy of the colors. The effect is a beautiful finishing that marks authentic Thai artistry. Gold is also a popular material used to paint porcelain.
Benjarong is among the most vibrant and decorative Thai ceramics made of porcelain.
Porcelain starts out as white in color and then it is heated in high intensity. After that, the geometric patterns, floral designs and other intricacies are painted on the porcelain.
The Thais handle it carefully and immediately place the piece into the fire once the paint has been applied. Traditionally, only five bright colors are used when making the beautiful Thai ceramics: Benjarong.
Nowadays, Thais still produce this type of handicraft but the colors range from three to eight. Modern designs are the ones that usually have the gold trimming. “Benjarong” is a general term that can be applied to handicrafts; they are ceramic by nature and include cups, vases, plates and other kinds of tableware.
Collectors and those who are interested in buying Thai ceramics usually look for the Benjarong antiques and coffee sets, old tea sets, bowl sets and urns. There are many places in Bangkok where you can find antiques like these in Chatuchak Market, Narayanaphand and the Buran Benjarong Factory.
Built in 1908, OP Place is really a historic showpiece in itself with added classic style like its Neoclassic architecture and the manually operated lift. The complex has several storeys of art galleries and stores offering superb antiques of all shapes and forms.
Enthusiasts of unique crafts and other collectibles will likely be amazed because of the large collection of Asian handicrafts, antiques, carpets, jewelry, fabrics, artwork, and Thai silk.
Situated next to The Oriental Hotel, OP Place also has a third floor that is a floor dedicated to The Ashwood Gallery which is an attractively arranged gallery of antique arts, crafts as well as furniture. It’s very well laid out and is essential for antique enthusiasts or just people who want to own an item of some excellent Asian heritage.
The OP Place Asian Heritage Centre has been very well designed and oozes the feeling that everything must be expensive which is normally the case. There’s car parking but there aren’t a large number of spaces available. On the other hand, it is possible to park in the Oriental Hotel’s car park which costs 40 Baht an hour.
Like with all antique shopping you have to know what you’re doing. Having said that, there are many very nice items on display and if you like Oriental furniture and items of art, OP Place will surely not dissapoint you.
If you keep walking around this area you’ll find an array of jewelry stores as well as shops dedicated to foreign trade. There are some good deals on offer if you look hard enough. A branch of Chitralada shop, a project initiated by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, can also be found here.
Opening Hours: 10:30 – 18:30
Location: 30/1 Soi Charoen Krung 38 (behind the Oriental Hotel)
BTS: Saphan Taksin
Tel: +66 (0)2 266 0186
Thailand is a popular destination for shoppers of genuine Thai antiques. The craftsmanship, the quality and the uniqueness of Thai antiques attract collectors from all over the world. It is not hard to find shops and boutiques selling antiques in Bangkok, but the challenge lies in spotting the genuine Thai antiques from amongst all those reproductions. Here are some tips to help you distinguish which ones are real and which ones are not.
Spotting fake antiques or reproductions
Check the price. Antiques are generally expensive because they are objects of high value. If the price is cheaper than you think it should be, ask the dealer. No dealer will make the mistake of pricing an antique too cheaply, and so if he insists that price is correct then it’s almost certainly not genuine. If unsure, inspect the artifact and do some research before buying.
Look at the whole collection. If the item you are eyeing has various examples then you should start being skeptical. Check to see if the item can be found in other antique shops or boutiques. Most likely, the ones you are seeing are reproductions.
It would be helpful to do as much research as you can on genuine Thai antiques, reproductions, etc. There are many resources online to get information from. The best way to prepare is by doing your homework first.
Inspect the antique. Be wary of details. For example, inspect the whole furniture. Is the design consistent with the whole ensemble? Is the piece a part of a larger set? Are the wear and tear marks located at the expected places? The wear and tear marks should be consistent with how particular furniture should have been used.
Look at the back and the underside of the furniture. If there are signs of varnish, paint or stains then be suspicious. The areas that are not supposed to be seen have no reason to be varnished or painted.
Where to find genuine Thai antiques
For a variety of antique shops to choose from, go to the River City Shopping Complex. The 3rd and 4th floors are filled with antique dealers, boutiques and shops. Some specialize in rare maps, textile, ceramics, furniture etc. For a larger collection that includes genuine Thai antiques and antiques from other Asian countries as well, visit the Old Siam Trading Company. Its collection dates back to the 1800s!