A White Elephant

Mr S and I have been searching charity shops for silver spoons.  The idea is to find one with an interesting handle which can be made in to a ring.  We have only come across one so far within our acceptable price bracket of really cheap, but the handle was disappointingly plain.  Fortunately it had other things to offer.

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The spoon is hallmarked Siam Silver which means that it likely dates from before the birth of modern Thailand in 1939.  For a lover of sayings and folklore, the combination of a silver spoon and a Thai elephant is irresistible.

As a child I took the world very literally, as I suspect most do.  On a street near our house there was a triangular sign warning of ‘Big Plant Crossing’ and to this day I am still a little disappointed that I never caught sight of any giant flora (in my head they were always dandelions, pre-clocks) stalking across the road.  I was also very confused the first time that I heard someone say that a person had been born with a silver spoon in their mouth.  For me, rather than a commentary on that most peculiarly British of institutions, the class system, where you can arrive in to the world, silver spoon in hand, ready to dine on what previous generations have left waiting for you, I was distressed to think of a poor baby, born with a spoon for a tongue – something far more horrible than the rather snide suggestion that because wealth is inherited it is automatically unappreciated.  Oddly, although the saying has negative tones, the giving of silver spoons as christening presents is common, an example perhaps of that uniquely human paradox whereby what we despise in others we (not so) secretly want for ourselves.

Which brings us to the elephant.  Albino Asian elephants, rather more pink than white and rarely as silver as the one on the spoon, have been revered across Thailand and Burma for centuries.  They are seen as indicators of good luck and power and, as sacred creatures, cannot be worked.  As such they have come to represent both a blessing and a curse, a privileged to be bestowed with, a burden to maintain.  Over time, the description ‘white elephant’ has come to mean something unwanted or with no practical purpose.  It is almost exclusively derisory and yet, the real live creatures are still, perhaps to their cost, desired.

What silver spoons and white elephants show us is that, with most things in life, there is not one truth.  Everything is a matter of interpretation, of context.  One person’s present is another’s punishment.

We decided to turn the elephant detail in to a pendant.  This involved soldering on a loop through which to thread the chain.  Rather than buy a packet of hundreds of loops, I cut one from an old necklace I do not wear.  So that it was easier to handle, the loop was attached before the elephant was separated from the body of the spoon.

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Separation was carried out using a hacksaw blade and the sharp edge first filed then buffed smooth.

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The necklace is a gift.  I am pleased with it but, ultimately, the meaning behind this white elephant is for someone else to decide.

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