For more than 15 million years, Thailand has been a home of elephants and the exquisite craftsmanship of ivory works of art. Although it is known that the elephants have long been a part of Thailand, it was not until the Bronze Age that the first ivory item was placed during the time period of 3,600 BC. This ivory beaded necklace was originally discovered at a Thailand site within the Udon Thani Province.
In Ban Kao, Kanchanaburi province there has been many ivory concentric circles discovered that dates back between 700 BC and 200 BC, along with combs made of ivory, and even bracelets. Thailand had been well known within the world ivory trade during the 14th to 18th Centuries, and many various items were also carved during this time period. There were many varieties of ivory containers, Knife and sword handles, musical instrument pieces, chess pieces, official seals, buttons for clothing and even dolls made of ivory.
During the 19th and very early 20th Century there were royal carvers that specially designed handles for utensils and ivory combs along with the very important religious ivory sculptures that included large ivory Buddha carvings, small Buddha figurines, Thepanom deities for worshipping and ivory stupas. The many ivory containers that were carved during the reign of King Rama V were so popular that he held an ivory caring contest for containers only and there were then 17 different variations of ivory container types acknowledged during the event. The royal families and other aristocrat’s would have specialized ivory carving containers made for them, and the unique designs would be as their personalized signatures.
King Rama V was well known for keeping a good number of highly skilled carvers of ivory for just the purpose of sculpturing specialized ivory containers just for the royal family. This was a competitive group of personal sculptures; with the absolute best sculpting craftsman being rewarded what was known as the “Seal Sculpture” title. They would then be put in charge of the official seals manufacturing for the government. Superior ivory carvers were always offered patronage from the upper class families for their ivory wants and needs.
It was during the early 1930’s that a talented Buddhist monk known as Boonrod Lohartrakool began his Buddha carving in Monorom of central Thailand. He was so talented that he became very well known as a ivory Buddha carver, and many other monks would go to him for their temple carvings or to purchase carvings from him to sell in other places in Thailand. From his work alone, the demand for many other religious items started, such as Rosaries, lions, Buddha Amulets and the Thai angel known as the Nanggwak.