Listed as Cambodia heritage by UNESCO in 2004, silver plating has a long tradition going back to the Oudong period in the XVth century. Only a few families of silversmiths perpetuated the tradition until now and Artisans Angkor works towards its revival with a specific workshop.
The copper leaves are first cleaned into the water and acid as this material can cause itches.To make a silver plated animal or fruit box, the artisan has to deal with two different elements: an upper and an inner part which are first molded into the fire.
For the upper part, the copper leaf is cut following a matrix and is then pounded until it gets the form of the animal, head and back. Same process for the inner part: the leaf is cut as a cross form which is folded up and pounded to get the feet, and the stomach form. The inner and upper elements must fit together perfectly.
To avoid damaging the surface when carving, each element is oiled inside and filled up with gum.
Each part is then finely carved and decorated. To take out the gum, the item must be melted down into the fire, before dipping it into acid and water for cleaning.In parallel, elements such as the trunk and the elephant tail are carved, polished and glued to the main element. Then the item is dried under direct sunlight.
To give it a silver aspect, the item is first soaked into a water and acid bath during 30mn to clean it. To make it look whiter, it is brushed using soapy water for taking away the top layer. Finally, the item is dipped into a silver bath which gives its shininess and silver aspect.