The Sparkling Beauty of Pewter in Royal Selangor

Posted by shloke 11 December 2009
Clockwise: Different processes of pewter production - Hammering, Casting & Soldering. Pictures taken with my Nikon D60.

Five days ago (6th December 2009), I invited my best friend to visit Royal Selangor. She has just returned from UK. At first, she was reluctant to follow me. But she finally agreed after some coaxing from me. She was looking forward to purchase the BEST pewter products in Kuala Lumpur (KL).

We were the earliest visitors to arrive. We LOVE the Royal Selangor building! It's an awesome building with stunning urban design and fabulous green garden. The creative layout and forms used in the exterior was similarly reflected in the interior spaces. Upon entering the reception area, we saw abstract art pieces made entirely with Pewter. In addition, the walls are creatively decorated with the workers' handprints. These handprints were pressed and molded into colorful metal plates. Amazing art works made entirely of pewter!

Clockwise: A creative display of green glow Carlsberg bottles with tin caps, Artisans' handprints molded into pewter plates and pewter motifs at Hall of Finishes. Pictures taken with my Nikon D60.

We were excited and looking forward to see more pewter goodies. An official guide from Royal Selangor followed us during the entire visit. At first, I felt awkward and uncomfortable having a 'stranger' tailing us. I'm not a VIP and we do not need that special attention...LOL! Luckily, he was a friendly, helpful and informative guide.

We spent almost two hours exploring the four galleries in Royal Selangor:

  1. Comyn Archive (It comprises of 35,000 patterns, moulds and drawings).
  2. Heritage Zone (Tin dredge buckets, Yong Koon's trademark, collections of tin money & pewter museum)
  3. Experiential Zone (The amazing Hall of Finishes, chamber of chimes, giant weighing scale & science of pewter)
  4. Contemporary Zone (Twin towers made entirely from pewter & wall handprints )

Both of us were impressed with the pewter exhibits. Along the way, we stumbled upon a medium-sized replica of Petronas Twin Towers. It is created with 7 062 pewter tankards. This replica is as beautiful as the original building in KLCC. I was stunned by how every detail was exactly the same - including the skybridge!

Clockwise: The thousands of pewter tankards that made-up the replica of KLCC, a pure 1 kg pewter block, a beautiful pewter souvenir to commemorate the launching of National Science Centre. Pictures taken with my Nikon D60.

This is an excellent place for Malaysians and tourists to appreciate the beauty of Malaysia pewter. As a Malaysian, I'm proud of Royal Selangor achievements, which were made possible as a result of Mr. Yong Koon's effort (founder of Royal Selangor) and the overall in-kind hard work contributed by the artisans and workers.

Royal Selangor is the world's largest pewter company. Our pewter is acclaimed internationally for its exquisite craftsmanship, artistry and attention to detail. In recognition of its quality, Royal Selangor received a royal warrant from His Royal Highness, the Sultan of Selangor, who conferred the manufacturer, the title of 'Royal Pewter'.

At the end of the tour, visitors were invited to see the making of pewter products - up close and personal. The factory tour shows you ‘live’ the different pewter production processes - casting, filing, polishing, soldering, hammering and engraving. We saw a worker pouring hot silver liquid into a mold. This lady is a PRO! She was fast and consistence. My eyes were fixed at the pot of boiling silver liquid. Scary! Look like molten lava to me! Check this out:

YouTube video courtesy of calvin4787

After that, we saw another lady worker hammering a pewter mug to create beautiful motifs. She allowed us to try the hammering process. The gal and I had a great time knocking the mug. We behaved like little kids. I guess there is a child in every grown-up :) If you like to learn more about the processing of pewter products, you can enroll in the School of Hard Knocks. This workshop costs RM50 per person and is open to groups of 5-50. Remember to place your booking in advance.

Later, we took some pictures of the gigantic tankard. According to Royal Selangor, this monumental feat was born of the desire that Royal Selangor should celebrate its centenary year in 1985 in dramatic fashion. It is 1.987 metres tall, weighs 1, 557 kg (3432 lbs) and has a capacity of 2, 796 litres. It is the world’s largest and listed in the Malaysian book of records and the Guinnes World Book of Records (1987). It has travelled around the world to places such as Canada, Australia, Singapore and China.

Clockwise: The world's largest pewter tankard, urban design and a beautiful flower at Royal Selangor Garden. Pictures taken with my Nikon D60.

Overall we LOVE our Royal Selangor experience. My girl friend bought herself RM500 worth of pewter products. A trip to Royal Selangor would not be complete without getting some souvenirs. I recommend this place to all the people who know's what is good pewter and top quality craftsmanship.


5 Things I Learned From Royal Selangor Pewter:


1) The Making of Gigantic Pewter Tankard

Six of Royal Selangor’s most skilled craftsmen were assigned to create this super tankard. They took three months and worked over 2 000 hours to complete the job - from preparation of the moulds to the final polishing of the tankard.

The process was similar to making a normal size tankard, although on a very much larger scale. Typically, the handle was cast separately and later soldered on, except that this 181 kg (400lbs) handle took three days just to be soldered on and a further 7 days for it to be polished to attain the right shine.

2) Yong Koon, The Founder

Founded in 1885 by Yong Koon, his little shop called Ngeok Foh (Jade Peace), handcrafted pewter objects mainly for ceremonial use - such as joss sticks holders, incense burners and candlestands for altars of Chinese homes and temples. It later expanded to items that were sought by the British colonials in Malaya (like tankards, ashtrays and tea services)

Business prospered in pre-war Malaya and when his son Yong Peng Kai took over, he mechanised many of the handcrafting processes to speed up production times. The brand was then known as Selangor Pewter.

3) Tin Money

Tin was so valuable in the old days; it was used as a form of currency. Apart from these coins, tin currency also came in animal forms such as cockerel, elephant and turtle.

Early Malay coinage usually took the form of conventional discs with a central hole. These were produced following the Chinese custom of moulding ‘coin-trees’ known locally as ‘pohon pitis’. The coins would be broken off from their branches and used as currency. The earliest known pewter coin of this type belonged to the reign of Raja Muhammad in 1793.

4) The Science of Pewter

A silvery white metal with a low melting point of 231.9 degrees centigrade, tin is malleable and ductile. It is also non-toxic and corrosion resistant, hence its use in coating other metals.

A quick glance at the Periodic Table shows you that its atomic symbols are Sn (Stannum being Latin for tin), Cu (Cuprum for Copper) and Sb (Stibium for Antimony), which combine to form pewter.

Pewter used to contain lead as it was the most economical way to strengthen tin. Royal Selangor’s pewter is entirely free of lead and is therefore absolutely safe to eat and drink from.

5) Yong Koon's Touchmark

Pewter is one of the oldest tin alloys used by man. Due to its wide usage, guilds were set up to maintain professional levels of craftsmanship and discipline. Touchmarking was the outcome. Each master pewterer registered his particular touchmark with his guild and applied his registered mark (or hallmark) to his work and was thus responsible for the level of quality. It also was a form of consumer protection, confirming the quality of the piece.

Yong Koon's touchmark “Yu He Zu Xi” are a combination of the Mandarin characters for “jade peace” and “pure tin”.

Note: Details about '5 Things I Learned From Royal Selangor Pewter' are adapted from Royal Selangor Visitor Centre


Royal Selangor Pewter - Contact Details & Opening Hours:

Admission is FREE

The visitors centre opens from 9.00am - 5.00pm, daily.

School of Hard Knocks:
Group activity available is School of Hard Knocks to create a pewter dish from a flat plate, using traditional tools (under an hour) . Maximum group size of 50 persons, minimum of 5. Advance bookings required. RM50.00 per person.

Address:
Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd,
4 Jalan Usahawan 6, Setapak Jaya,
53300 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Contact Details:
Tel +603 4145 6122
Fax +603 4022 3000
Email - info@royalselangor.com

Royal Selangor Pewter - Getting There:

By Light Rapid Transit
Take the PUTRA LRT, alight at Wangsa Maju station and hop into a taxi to take you to the Visitor Centre.

Guest Parking
Free parking, Ample parking space for car, and up to 15 parking bays for coach buses.

Royal Selangor Pewter - Google Maps:


Royal Selangor Pewter - Things To Do/See:

  1. The world's largest pewter tankard
  2. Heritage Zone (Tin dredge buckets, Yong Koon's trademark, collections of tin money & pewter museum)
  3. Experiential Zone (The amazing Hall of Finishes, chamber of chimes, giant weighing scale & science of pewter)
  4. Contemporary Zone (Twin towers made entirely from pewter & wall handprints )
  5. Buy (Exclusive pewter gifts & tableware)

Royal Selangor Pewter - Read More/Useful Links:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pewter (Wikipedia Article)
  2. http://visitorcentre.royalselangor.com/vc/ (Official Portal of Royal Selangor Visitor Centre)
  3. http://blog.tourism.gov.my/royal-selangor-pewter/ (Blog from Tourism Malaysia)

6 comments

  1. fufu Says:
  2. yeah.... royal selangor... used to passed by there when i was going for dinner at sri rampai or desa setapak (studying form 6 + 7 in tarc, and stayed at sri pelangi, jalan genting-kelang) wish royal selngor would be as famous as austrian's swarovski all over the world in the future that every visitor to kl would go there for souvenirs, just like what i did when i was in innbrucks, austria, i spent euro 100 just for the bracelets and necklaces for my sisters and mother =)

    p/s : the GIS lesson is boring so i am here secretly browse your blog while pretending listening to the prof löl

     
  3. eunice Says:
  4. OKie voted!

    Just curious, what is this voting for?

     
  5. shloke Says:
  6. fufu

    Have you been to Royal Selangor? You'll love the urban-like exterior and creative interior.

    Well, our Royal Selangor has a long history. Its quite famous among Japanese and British.

    Wah! Only € 100 for both bracelet and necklace? That's is CHEAP!!!

    My goodness, you are sneaking in class :)

    eunice

    Thank you for voting!

    Oooh....public votes contribute 30% of the overall marks :) So, I need more votes to garner higher average.

    Happy Weekend!
    mylo

     
  7. David Jr Says:
  8. You went here as well, nice. My last visit there was back in 2004.. wow, been so long.

    Regards,
    David

     
  9. shloke Says:
  10. David

    WOW! That was 5 years ago :)

    This place is AWESOME! You should revisit Royal Selangor. More display and added gallery. The latest addtion is Comyn Archive - with over 35,000 patterns, moulds and drawings.

    Cheers!
    mylo

     
  11. Yan Kah Luke Says:
  12. Wow...... Seem like Crafting Pewter is a hard job to do....

     
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shloke
Traveling & photography are the most rewarding & enriching experiences in my life. Photography is all about discovery, enjoying myself, having adventure, learning people & nature. The greatest experience for me is the connection I felt with NATURE. If you haven’t seen Malaysia, you haven’t seen the world! My photography works are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.
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