Vietnamese lacquerware is sought after by collectors for its beauty and durability. Some lacquer manufactories in Saigon host free tours. Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum at Pho Duc Chinh is home to many fine pieces of vintage lacquerware. The art galleries along Dong Khoi feature modern lacquer pieces. It can take more than 12 stages of production to create one piece. A lacquer tray takes 75 days to make! Production in Vietnam dates to the 18th century and the best lacquerware is handmade. Lacquer is a natural varnish from a tree of the cashew family. In HCMC you can buy inexpensive lacquerware at Ben Thanh Market.
For a memorable Vietnamese souvenir, pick up some lacquerware in HCMC. Reputedly a Chinese import to Vietnam, lacquer production is a time and labour intensive process. Lacquer is a natural substance mined from rhus tree resin. Some pieces are layered with ten to 15 coats of lacquer. Before a second coat of lacquer can be applied to a piece, the previous coat must dry for one week before it is sanded. This process is repeated until the piece is finished.
It is difficult to differentiate between high and poor quality products. Only time will tell.