A Malay belt buckle (pinding) made from silver with a repousse design.
Silver-smithing in Malaysia began many centuries after the use of gold, as silver is not indigenous there, although it is mined in Burma, Laos and Thailand, and had to be imported by foreign traders. The silver industry in Malaysia declined in the 1930s when there was a shortage of silver and cheap commercial products came onto the market. Today there are only a few families who work with silver in Malaysia.
Large decorative belt buckles like this were mainly worn by men on official occasions. They were typically made of silver, which was not indigenous to Malaysia, and their size was an indicator of rank. In addition to serving as personal adornment, the jewellery of Southeast Asia generally is rich with symbolism and serves as an effective medium for displays of wealth and status.
This object is one of a collection of belt buckles donated by Sir F J Benton on behalf of the New South Wales Applied Trust. The Trust, originally known as the New South Wales Collectors and Connoisseurs Society, was established in 1926 by Charles Laseron, who served at the Museum (formerly the Technological Museum), as collector and Officer in Charge, Applied Arts, from 1906 until 1929. The Trust was formed to hold a collection in readiness for the establishment of a new Applied Art Museum, though this was never to eventuate. Laseron and his companions gave items themselves and solicited donations along with cash from private donors to make purchases at forthcoming auctions. The Museum holds a number of letters from Laseron relating to this matter. In 1927 the Trust placed its impressive collection on indefinite loan to the Museum. This significant collection comprises 283 accessions and relates to an important period of the Museum's collecting history.