Bands of Love - A highlands treasure

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To learn the secret art of making silver rings, crafted by an ethnic Chu Ru artisan you must journey to Don Duong District in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong.

Ya Tuat from Tu Tra Commune, is known as the only artisan among the 15,000 Chu Ru people in Lam Dong who makes sri, or silver rings, for Chu Ru couples' engagements and weddings.

Ya Tuat learned how to make sri from his uncle, Ya Grang.

Ya Grang taught many young Chu Ru men how to make sri, including his nephew. But Ya Tuat could not make sri until he received a set of tools that his uncles presented to him before his death.

"Making silver rings is not a money-making business but it is a traditional handicraft of the Chu Ru people, and it should be preserved," says Ya Tieng, Ya Tuat's father.

To make sri, first the artisan heats honey wax to melt it and then dips a round wooden stick in the hot wax solution. After the wax cools down, the artisan takes out the stick and cuts the wax tube into differently sized pieces used as molds for the rings.

The artisan usually makes a pair of rings a smaller one for women, called nhan mai (feminine ring), and a larger one for men, called nhan trong (masculine ring).

The molds are then dipped into a solution made from buffalo pat mixed with soil, and the molds are put under the sun for one or two days.

Next, the artisan burns the molds on a fire so that the wax melts and only the buffalo pat remains, creating a negative mold. He will then pour molten silver around that mold, creating a pair of dull rings.

These are put into boiling bo ket rung (a type of wild berry) water for a few minutes and they later become lustrous.

Ya Tuat says the buffalo pat solution must be made from the waste of three-year-old buffaloes and mixed with soil dug up from a secret place in the forest that only he knows.

The artisan must also sleep separately from his wife the night before the ring casting. He usually starts to make the rings at 4 a.m. and concludes the process after four hours.

To Chu Ru people, a Sri Mota Hola, or "deep eye ring," is an indispensable offering for an engagement and wedding.

Ya Tuat in 2005 made 300 Sri Mota Hola rings - 150 nhan trong and 150 nhan mai - to present as wedding gifts to the 150 couples who took part in a mass wedding during the Da Lat Flower Festival from December 10 to 18 that year.

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