Crafty destinations

Gold smithery thrives in ancient Hue village

Ke Mon village in Phong Dien district has kept alive its centuries-old craft of making jewelry in the former royal city of Hue.
Gold smithery in Hue was believed to have been founded in the late 18th century by Cao Dinh Do, a goldsmith from Cam Tu village, Cam Thuy district, Thanh Hoa province. Do settled in Ke Mon village, Dien Mon commune, Phong Dien district where he passed on his skills to the locals.

A skilled artisan, Cao Dinh Do was invited by the kings of the Nguyen dynasty to make gold and silverware for the royal family.

The working space of a goldsmith at Tinh Tam reminds visitors of the old craft.  

It is important for a goldsmith to control the temperature of the blast burner. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Many skilled goldsmiths in Hue are young. Photo: Thanh Hoa

A pair of silver-carved shoes. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Foreigners learn about gold smithery in Hue in a space typical of the former imperial city.

In 1810, Cao Dinh Do died at the age of 66. King Gia Long gave him the title of “first founder of gold smithery.” He was given land by the king to build a tomb in Truong Coi village like a royal mandarin. The stele of Cao Dinh Do was carved with words praising his merit “The founder of goldsmithing in the country and the teacher of the trade.”

Do’s son, Cao Dinh Huong, was his successor who was given the title “second founder of gold smithery”. After his death in 1821 when he was 48, Huong was buried in a tomb next to his father’s.

Today, Tran Duy Mong, a descendant of Tran Duy family in Ke Mon village, is keeping alive the old craft of the former imperial city.

Tran Duy Mong learned goldsmithing when he was young and now has nearly 50 years of experience in the trade. Mong, who is regarded as Hue’s goldsmith with golden hands, has won numerous prizes at national and provincial contests for artisans.

Mong is the owner of Thuan Thanh-Duy Mong, a gold, silver and gem business in Hue, which has six manufacturing workshops.

One of these workshops is Tinh Tam, which has now become the largest tourist center for trading jewelry in the central region. At Tinh Tam, visitors can see thousands of sophisticated models of gold, silver and gem jewelry and handicrafts. Tinh Tam also has a goldsmithing museum which displays valuable artifacts, including copies of the king’s conferment of titles to gold smithery in Hue. The museum has set up a space for an ancient goldsmith workshop and showcases such tools as hammers, pliers, awls, hand files, molds, precision scales, and blast burners.

Mong said he built Tinh Tam with the desire to preserve and revive the old jewelry craft of Hue. Tinh Tam and other manufacturing workshops of Mong are creating jobs for locals and help pass on the trade to younger artisans.

A picture of the imperial city of Hue (Dai Noi) is made of gold. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Gold laminated pearl cups. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Betel and areca made of gold. Photo: Thanh Hoa

A silver flower patterned pot. 

Dragon-patterned necklaces. 

A silver carved necklace with gems. 

A silver  carved fan. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Although traditional goldsmithing is facing tough challenges from the development of modern jewelry making technology, it can survive and develop, given its own beauty and uniqueness, Mong believes.
By Thanh Hoa

Bài, ảnh: Thanh Hòa

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