My Amazing Life-Chapter 6, What Do You Get When You Mix….Copper, Antimony and Tin???
We pulled into the parking lot of the Royal Selangor Factory in the mid morning and the Malaysian heat and humidity were intense. As we left the tour bus I spied this huge tankard at the entrance to the factory. It made me think immediately of how good a cold beer would taste just now, while the perspiration dribbled down my brow. The only issue is, since my heart attack ten years ago, I can’t really partake of any alcohol without waking up with the world’s biggest hangover the next morning. Oh well a man can dream can’t he?
We entered the factory and thank God the place was air conditioned. We registered and received our passes and listened to an introductory speech in regard to the history of the factory. We learned exactly how a young “Pewtersmith” named Yong Koon left his home in China and settled in Colonial Malayia in 1885. He made the decision to abide in Kuala Lampur, which at the time was a small but expanding mining town. Pewter is an alloy made primarily from tin with small portions of antimony and copper blended in. It is the most precious metal in the world after gold and silver.
As we began the tour we came across many glassed in display examples of antique items. We saw original ingots and tools used in the processing of pewter. Silver antiques have always piqued my interest because I am a history buff who enjoys items that delineate the past and can only imagine how difficult it must have been to start the foundry from scratch. To be honest, I’d like to have them over at my house and possibly take them out when I host a theme party. When I see advertisements for new building flats with slogans like “cool contemporary living,” the cynic in me conjures up images of soulless overpriced boxes! As a result, I might look for an antique silver store myself to purchase a few fancy pieces for my home decor.
To see kettles and urns from long ago, along with items that were made more than likely before I was born, is stimulating and rewarding to a history buff. I was in heaven as we sauntered through the cases filled with items from the early days of pewtersmithing.
I then learned how much of the work is still done by hand. I was blown away that these individuals have such a high concentration level and can block out all distractions, to enhance the items with their natural talents. If I were a betting man I would have gone “all in” on a machine making the engraving on the pewter cups, etc.
We were led through a walkway that overlooked the foundry and all the various stations that assembled the different components and items. One could see out over the majority of the factory and to my dismay they were all at lunch apparently. I would have loved to see them laboring at their craft.
We found out at the end of the factory tour that this was an interactive tour and we each would be making our own individual pewter pendant and had to pick from a myriad of designs. Being a type A personality, I immediately chose a heart and decided I would surprise my wife with it upon my return.
We had to pour the hot pewter into a mold and let it cool. We then had to clip the extra pieces with snips, that had spilled over from the mold. Then we smoothed and sanded the item with a file and electric buffer. This all from a guy that can’t even hit a nail correctly with a lightweight hammer. It came out good enough to please Kim and that is all that counts!
From the interactive station we were led into a retail shop that had rows and rows of items for sale. You could spend a dollar or many thousands of dollars. I took photo after photo of the items they had for sale and we roamed the shop for around 45 minutes or so. I was completely in awe of the items on sale and the plethora of pewter items exhibited to whet our appetite for a souvenir.
Royal Selangor acquired Comyns, an English silversmith and many examples were on sale in a different section of the store. All the items in this area were made from silver and I might add were unique and ornate. They were lovely to look at but I certainly could not touch them.
If you visit Kuala Lampur Malaysia I highly recommend you take this factory tour of Royal Selangor. I am positive you will enjoy all the assorted items from the past and current popular pieces handcrafted daily. It only takes a couple of hours and is well worth the tour in my humble opinion.
*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.