Sámi artisans have been making bracelets from reindeer leather for hundreds of years. Our Sámi bracelets are made of reindeer hide that is cured and vegetable tanned from the bark of willow, fir, and birch trees. The closure consists of a twisted leather loop and button made from shed reindeer antlers. The thread is coiled pewter (made from melted tin alloy and 4% silver) that is stitched and braided onto the leather in both ancient and contemporary patterns. In ancient times, the Sámi created pewter thread by splitting a birch or alder branch, removing the heartwood, and then using the hollow cavity as a mold for the molten metal. After casting, the pewter rods were then pulled through a series of holes (starting with larger and decreasing to smaller) drilled through reindeer antlers. The resulting pewter wire was then coiled around reindeer sinew to make the metal thread. Today, the thread is produced with modern methods and is spun around synthetic thread instead of reindeer sinew.
The Sámi reindeer leather bracelets sold at True North are contemporary examples of traditional Sámi bracelets created by Erika Honig. Erika grew up in northern Sweden, where she learned how to make Sámi bracelets as a young girl. All of Erika's materials are hand-selected from local sources in northern Sweden and are of the highest quality. Erika's workmanship is excellent. We have worked with many artisans over the years, but have seen nothing that compares to Erika's workmanship.
The Sámi and their Reindeer
The Sámi people are the indigenous reindeer-herding people of northern Europe. Until recently, they were known as “Lapps” or “Laplanders,” but today they prefer the name Sámi. Reindeer have been an important part of Sámi culture for thousands of years, during which time they provided meat and milk for sustenance; hides for clothing, shoes, and tents; bones and antlers for tools, weapons, toys, and handcraft; and sinews for sewing. As livestock, reindeer were also used as draft and pack animals. But above all, the Sámi considered reindeer as kindred spirits that shared the harsh yet beautiful northern landscape with them, and gave them life. (To learn more about the unique relationship that the Sámi have with reindeer, read "One Thousand Words for Reindeer" in our Nature & Culture blog.)