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Royal Selangor - A Pictorial Tour

Updated on June 9, 2014

Royal Selangor - An Introduction

Royal Selangor is a Malaysian company that specializes in manufacturing and retailing of pewter craft that is also a popular tourist attraction.

It is more than 120 years old and was founded by Yong Koon, a young pewtersmith who migrated from Shantou, China. The company has since grown to become a worldwide recognized brand for much sought after pewter craft.

Today, Royal Selangor produces finely crafted pewter ware for a wide range of product categories from children's gift to flash drives. From tableware to wine and bar accessories.

In addition, Royal Selangor also produces customized designs and among its more noted customized designs in recent years include the splendid trophies made for the Formula One races in Malaysia, Singapore and China.

Picture of founder Yong Koon on lower right and his original shop on upper left - from Royal Selangor Visitor Center
Image Credit - Roy Yap

In the 70s, Royal Selangor diversified its business into the design, manufacture and marketing of precious jewelry under the newly created Selbaran brand name.

This was followed by an acquisition of Comyns, a UK brand known for its exquisite silverware, in 1993.

All of Royal Selangor's products are painstakingly hand crafted at their factory located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The pewter factory employs over 250 highly skilled craftpeople.

The factory also has an award winning and free Visitor Center that attracts over 200,000 visitors a year from around the world.

Location Map of Royal Selangor Kuala Lumpur

A marker -
Royal Selangor 4 Jalan Usahawan 6 setapak jaya
get directions

The Visitor Center

Royal Selangor Visitor Center
Royal Selangor Visitor Center

Royal Selangor has 3 Visitor Centers located at Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Singapore. This lens is on the Kuala Lumpur Visitor Center. The address is:

  • Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd
  • 4 Jalan Usahawan 6, Setapak Jaya
  • 53300 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Tel +603 4145 6122
  • Fax +603 4022 3000
  • Email -
  • visitorcentre@royalselangor.com
  • Website -
  • www.royalselangorvisitorcentre.com

The Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00am - 5:00pm including all public holidays. Admission is free. No appointment is necessary and tours are conducted in English, Malay, Mandarin and Japanese.

Royal Selangor's Kuala Lumpur Visitor Center lobby. World's largest pewter tankard can be seen on the right of photo
Image Credit - Roy Yap

The first thing that you will notice when you arrive at the Kuala Lumpur Visitor Center is the giant pewter tankard located at the front of the Visitor Center lobby. The giant pewter tankard is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest pewter tankard. It was made by Royal Selangor in 1985 to commemorate its centenary. It has a capacity of 2,796 liters.

Don't forget to take a photo with the world's largest pewter tankard.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Visitors to the Visitor Center can register themselves at the lobby and request for a free guided tour.

History & Museum

The guided tour starts here at the History & Museum section. In the History section are a few photos from Royal Selangor's history including a one of the founder, their original premise in Kuala Lumpur and the historical endorsement by the Sultan of Selangor and the conferment of the "Royal" status to the company.

Tin Animal Money
Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons

This is followed by the Museum section where historical items as the first Selangor Pewter product catalog, first generation pewter designs as we well as tools used in the tin mining process are displayed.

Displayed are ancient forms of currency made from tin. Some of the currency look like animals (crocodile, elephant and tortoise) and various parts of it can be broken off to make payment. This form of currency was used in the 15th century in the Malay Peninsula.

Also displayed are the various methods of extracting tin ore from the most manual method of using wooden pans also known as "dulang" to modern methods using a tin dredge which is actually a floating factory on an artificial lake.

Model of a tin dredge, a floating tin mining factory on an artificial lake
Image Credit - Roy Yap

More tin artifacts from the Museum section
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Read about the history behind Royal Selangor

History of Royal Selangor
History of Royal Selangor

The story of Royal Selangor is no ordinary corporate history. It's humble beginnings and complicated evolution are closely entwined with Malaysia's remarkable social and economic transformation from British colonial days to the modern era.

 

Giant Container of Pewter Swarf

No pewter goes to waste as they are all recycled.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Next to the History and Museum section is a huge clear plastic container that is hanging from the ceiling.

Twice a day, the factory will collect swarf or fine pewter chips, shavings and filings from the various work stations to be recycled into new pewter products.

Did you know that tin melts at 231.9 deg Celcius or 449.4 deg Fahrenheit?

The giant container here represents a typical collection for a single day and it weighs 1578 kg or 3479 lbs.

Besides learning about recycling of pewter waste, I also learned a new word - swarf.

The Comyns Archive

Dog figurine from the Comyns collection
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Royal Selangor acquired Comyns, an English sterling silver brand in 1993. Comyns specializes in decorative silverware and the company traces its history all the way back to 1645. The Comyns brand was previously known as a manufacturer for prestigious retailers in the UK.

In the Comyn Archives section, over 35,000 historical molds, tools, patterns and drawings are stored and displayed.

Did you know that sterling silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or another metal?

Among the archive's most treasured items is an elaborate Rococo candelabra by the Georgian silversmith Paul de Lamerie, the most highly regarded of all silversmiths.

Twin Towers

Twin Towers
Twin Towers

The replica of the famous Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, stands at over 9 meters or 30 feet tall which makes it about 1/50th of the towers' actual height. It is made from 7,062 pewter tankards and it is another ideal place to take a photo.

Chamber of Chimes

The Chamber of Chimes is located on the other half of the floor. It is an interactive display consisting of tubular chimes made from pewter and other materials such as plastic, wood and bamboo hanging from the ceiling. Visitors can ring the different chimes to discover the different sounds and tones that different materials make.

This area can be quite noisy if there are many young children among the visitors who are naturally drawn to this exhibit.

Wall of Finishes

The Wall of Finishes is made up of two curving walls entirely covered with pewter plates with different kind of textures and patterns. Some of the plates are matte. Some are smooth and shiny. Some have interesting patterns made up of lines and dimples.

Walk between the walls and run your hands across the interesting textures.

Check out these wine accessories from Royal Selangor

Vinifera Bacchus Wine Funnel
Vinifera Bacchus Wine Funnel

Bacchus was the Roman god of wine and revelry. His face is sculpted on the funnel, crowned with clusters of grapes.

When wine is poured into the funnel, the wine appears to be blown out by Bacchus to the wall of the decanter.

 
Spiral Pewter Funnel, #5210
Spiral Pewter Funnel, #5210

This exposes greater surface area of the wine to the atmosphere for aeration. The combination of pewter and glass allows you to witness the wine spiraling down.

The seal between the pewter and glass component is made of food-grade silicon rubber and funnel is made from highly durable borosilicate glass.

 
Bacchus Pewter Bottle Coaster | 1467BR, #7037
Bacchus Pewter Bottle Coaster | 1467BR, #7037

Inspired by oak casks, the coaster boasts charming line work and a unique shape. It's design features the face of Bacchus, crowned with grape clusters and caught in inebrious laughter. A backdrop of subtle fluting enhances the richness of the superbly sculpted details.

 
Vinifera Puffer Fish Aerator
Vinifera Puffer Fish Aerator

Wine is diffused as it travels along the aerator into the decanter. Inspired by the sea and made of 100% pewter.

 
Vinifera Cascade Wine Funnel
Vinifera Cascade Wine Funnel

The Cascade Pewter Funnel is as unique as it is attractive! Rather than pouring through the inside of the funnel stem, the wine passes through weep holes in the sides of the twisted stem and flows down the outside, creating a "candy cane" effect 6"H x 3 1/2"W.

 

The Science of Pewter

The chemical composition of modern pewter - tin, antimony and copper
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Learn more of the scientific property of pewter in this section. Find out the three basic components that make up pewter from a mural of a gigantic periodic table.

Did you also know that in 1991, a pewter medallion made by Royal Selangor was brought along by the space shuttle Discovery into space and thus became the first Malaysian-made object to go into space?

Did you know that the Academy Award is a 3.85 kg gold-plated pewter statuette?

These and many more trivia and fun facts can be found in the Science of Pewter section.

Hall of Frames

Pewter frames are very popular pewter products and in the Hall of Frames, there are more than 200 pewter photo frames on display. The frames come in all kinds of styles and sizes.

This is a good place to take a photo.

Hand Prints

Just as you leave the exhibition hall and head over to the demonstration section, there is a wall that is filled with pewter hand prints. The hand prints on this wall are of all Royal Selangor employees who have served with the company for at least 5 years.

The names of the employees whose hand print they belong to are also embossed on the hand print. What a great way to honor your loyal employees.

Before you move on to the pewter manufacturing demonstration area, do stop by for free cool refreshment served in small pewter cups.

Experience Pewter Craftmanship

The next part of the tour allows the visitors to take a closer look at the elaborate process of crafting pewter. Each pewter piece is crafted by a skilled craft person by hand. All the processes require a lot of skill and labor. The processes that are covered in this part of the tour are casting, filing, polishing and hammering.

Molten pewter is poured into molds to form a pewter handle.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

A steel blade is used to file the surface of a rotating perter piece to produce a smooth and shiny surface.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Different polishing methods are used to bring out the details of the engraving on the pewter piece.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

A hammering process is used to add textures to the surface of the pewter piece.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Casting Process

First of all, molten pewter is made by melting tin, antimony and copper at 250 degrees Celcius or 482 degrees Fahrenheit.

The molten pewter is kept in a heated container and is scooped using a ladle and poured into the mold.

Once the pewter has cooled down and solidifies, the mold is opened up and the formed handle is removed.

The remove excess pewter from the edges of the handle, the excess part is dipped into the molten pewter container and is melted off.

This process looks deceptively easy but a lot of skill is required to pour the pewter in correctly to make sure that the casting cools down evenly and properly.

Done wrongly and you end up with a part that has many dimples on the surface or is too brittle to work with.

Filing Process

The casted pewter part's surface is dull and rough due to oxidation and excess pewter material caused by flashing.

The pewter piece is mounted on a rotating jig and a steel blade is used to skim over the surface of the pewter piece while it is rotating at high speed.

This removes the oxidized layer to reveal a smooth and shiny surface underneath.

Polishing Process

The next step in the process is the polishing process.

Different methods of polishing are employed depending on the design of the motifs on the pewter piece.

For rough edges, tools such as blades and hacksaws are used and for finer details, a piece of fine sandpaper is used.

Hammering Process

The hammering process is yet another process that looks deceptively simple.

The artisan uses a steel hammer to hammer on the soft pewter surface to create a dimpled look.

Each dimple requires two precise knocks with a consistent strength.

Each standard sized dimpled tankard has about 700 dimples which means a total of 1,400 precise and consistent knocks to produce a single tankard.

Factory Floor

Royal Selangor Factory Floor
Royal Selangor Factory Floor

As you make your way from the second floor to the first floor, you walk along a ramp that gives a great overview of the Royal Selangor factory floor.

If you happen to visit the Visitor Center on a working day, you will be able to see the factory workers hard at work at their individual work stations producing great works of art.

School of Hard Knocks

School of Hard Knocks
School of Hard Knocks

Royal Selangor has a hands on workshop known as the School of Hard Knocks where participants will learn how to create their own pewter dish using traditional tools like hammers, mallets and wooden molds. These are same tools employed by pewtersmiths more than a hundred years ago.

The classes are conducted by an experienced instructor and it covers all main processes in pewter crafting including forming, scraping, polishing and even packing.

Participants get to keep the finished dish as a souvenir plus a certificate will be presented to all participants as well. Each session will take about 30 mins. There is a small fee of RM60 or about US$19 per participant.

Those interested in taking part in the workshop are encourage to register themselves or even make a pre-booking ahead of time.

Retail Therapy

Retail Therapy
Retail Therapy

Replica of 2010 Petronas F1 Malaysian Grand Prix 2010 trophy.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Before you leave, be sure to check out the 18,000 square feet retail shop that features exquisite products from Royal Selangor as well as from it's two sister companies, Comyns and Selbaran.

Besides ogling at the thousands of products on sale that include among many others, picture frames, ornament pieces, tea leaf containers, tea sets and traditional tankards, there are a few interesting pewter pieces on display including the F1 trophies made for the races in Malaysia, Singapore and China.

Being the geek that I am, the pieces that most fascinated me were the pieces from the Lord of the Rings collection and the piece de resistance being the Lord of the Rings pewter chess set.

If you are interested in buying something, the sales staff are very friendly and approachable.




Closeup of the Lord of the Rings chess pieces - the good side.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Goblets from the Lord of the Rings collection.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

Richly detailed pewter figurine.
Image Credit - Roy Yap

More photos from the sales gallery - All photos by Roy Yap

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pewter bowl and chopstick set inlaid with gold motifs.The Lord of the Rings chess set pieces - the evil side.Intricate designs on a Chinese tea leaves canister.Golf fish motif on a pewter plaque.Pewter figurine of a Chinese warrior. This is quite a big piece standing over 2 feet tall.Figurines from the Chinese Zodiac Animals collection.Another exquisite dog figurine from the Comyns collection.A pair of sterling silver elephants from the Comyns collection.
Pewter bowl and chopstick set inlaid with gold motifs.
Pewter bowl and chopstick set inlaid with gold motifs.
The Lord of the Rings chess set pieces - the evil side.
The Lord of the Rings chess set pieces - the evil side.
Intricate designs on a Chinese tea leaves canister.
Intricate designs on a Chinese tea leaves canister.
Golf fish motif on a pewter plaque.
Golf fish motif on a pewter plaque.
Pewter figurine of a Chinese warrior. This is quite a big piece standing over 2 feet tall.
Pewter figurine of a Chinese warrior. This is quite a big piece standing over 2 feet tall.
Figurines from the Chinese Zodiac Animals collection.
Figurines from the Chinese Zodiac Animals collection.
Another exquisite dog figurine from the Comyns collection.
Another exquisite dog figurine from the Comyns collection.
A pair of sterling silver elephants from the Comyns collection.
A pair of sterling silver elephants from the Comyns collection.

Would you like to visit the Royal Selangor Visitor Center?

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    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Looks like there's so much to do there.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      Good information - looks quite interesting!