This beautifully produced and illustrated hardcover book, ideal for collectors and curators, is the most comprehensive book ever published on the silver and gold ware of the Malay people of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, southern Thailand and Brunei.

The images alone comprise the largest collection of examples of Malay silver and gold ever assembled.

Hundreds of colour photographs of previously unpublished items, and meticulous research, are used to tell not just the story of Malay gold and silver, but that of the Malay people, with reference to their princely regalia, banqueting items, betel sets, jewellery, silver and gold-encased weapons, and other items of adornment and finery. In addition, previously unrecognised gold items made by the Malays for the 18th century European market are identified, and other items of silverware now in museum collections and believed to be Malay are shown not to be.

Michael Backman also shows how 19th century collecting for museums and private collections, and colonialism itself, distorted our view of Malay gold and silver today, if not the Malays themselves, and also influenced what was produced. He weaves a complex story, and in so doing reveals the Malays’ rich, dynamic and sophisticated legacy, one that is little understood today.

Chapter Outline:

  1. Discovering Malay Silver and Gold
  2. Private Collecting, Public Distortions: The Collecting and Colonial Bias
  3. The River Rajas: Who are the Malays?
  4. European Takeover and the Collapse of the Malay Courts
  5. Malay Rulers: their Riches and Regalia
  6. The Minangkabau Mirage
  7. Making Malay Silver and Gold
  8. The Malay Silversmith’s Aesthetic
  9. A Taxonomy of Motifs
  10. Malay Weddings: Everyone’s Turn at Royalty
  11. Early Malay Silver
  12. The Malays: Forgotten Masters of Filigree
  13. Thailand and the Malay World
  14. Silver and Gold for Feasting
  15. Betel: At the Heart of being Malay – Luxury Betel Sets and Tobacco Boxes
  16. Malay Waist Buckles: Allegories of Paradise
  17. Portable Wealth: Gold and Silver Jewellery
  18. Pillow Ends, Modesty Plates and Other Luxury Items in Gold and Silver
  19. Weapons for Royalty
  20. Inscriptions on Malay Silver and Gold
  21. Appendix 1 – Defining Malay
  22. Appendix 2 – Overview of Key Malay Sultanates


Malay Silver and Gold is the first book on this topic to have been published in over a hundred years. Rightly, it restores the Malays to the very centre of the commercial history and material culture setting of their region whilst placing them in the broader context of the ‘Islamic world’. With its hundreds of beautiful photographs and outstanding research, it is a magnificent and eye-opening contribution that tells not only the story of the silver and gold items fashioned by Malay artisans but the Malay peoples themselves.’

    – Seif El Rashidi, Islamic scholar, author & Director, Barakat Trust

‘This ground breaking new book is the first study of Malay silver and gold to take chronology and place production into serious consideration, leading to a much more nuanced understanding of developments across Southeast Asia. The exciting findings include the identification as Malay of certain exquisite gold filigree pieces held in august collections worldwide.’

    -Annabel Teh Gallop, Head, Southeast Asia Department, British Library

‘At last, here is an excellent publication that does full justice to the scope and beauty of Malay silver and gold. Michael Backman describes and illustrates the full range of Malay silver and gold work with superlative photographs. A great contribution to a very important, but hitherto not well understood Southeast Asia craft!’

    -Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Author

Click on each sample image below for a preview.