Buying a color gemstone in Bangkok can be both a rewarding or horrifying experience. When one scans in travel forums or discussion boards, it will seem there is more horror “Thai Gem scams” story then the pleasant rewarding ones.
It has always been a fact that negative news is more popular. Media likes focusing more on revolutions, accidents, natural disasters or murders. Then reading about good experiences people have because of how it affects us.
The Thai Gem scams does exist. But, this does not mean you should not consider buying gemstones in Thailand.
Like many countries around the world, they are always bad intentional people around. They will try to take advantage of foreign tourists’ ignorance so they can earn a quick buck.
You should of course be careful when you approach by these scam artists and to learn how to avoid them. More information about these scams can read here – http://www.bangkokscams.com
Yet, the purpose of this article is not to inform you how to avoid blood-sucking vampires or gem scam artists. But to explain to you what you should do when you want to buy a gemstone in Bangkok or Thailand?
First, let us get the facts straight. Why you should consider buying gemstones in Bangkok or Thailand.
Why you should Buy Gemstones in Bangkok?
Largest Gemstone Market
Bangkok is one of the largest and major markets for trading all types of color gemstones. This includes but not restricted to: rubies, sapphires, tourmaline, garnets, peridot, spinel, topaz and jade.
Some stats – The Thai gems and jewelry industry in 2016 generated more than US$14 billion for the Thai economy. The industry is the third largest foreign income earner for the country.
Office Located Here
Almost all color gemstone traders, wholesalers and jewelry buyers have an office-based here. Or have a local partner because it is in fact cheaper to buy color gemstones here then anywhere else in the world.
Major Treatment and Manufacturing Hub
Almost all color gemstones rough from around the world come to Thailand. They get cut, treated and manufactured to jewelry because of their strong expertise.
Thai craftsmen are consider the best cutters in the world. They have learnt how to cut in pure precision due to their proximity to Burma. The major source for expensive color gemstones like rubies, sapphires, and jade.
Many gem source countries – like Burma, Africa, South America, or Sri Lanka – have local cutters. Yet, they lag years behind Thai cutters. Thai craftsmen are also considered experts in heat treatment. Especially for very expensive rubies and sapphire. This is a very difficult skill to get.
Major Gemstone Trading Source
Again, the most important fact is Thailand is the major source of trading color gemstones. From my experience, it is actually even cheaper to buy gemstones in Thailand. Than from source countries.
At first, this point might sound counter-intuitive. Why will it be cheaper to buy a gemstone in Thailand when it doesn’t source most of these stones?
A better way to understand this is by comparing another industry which we all know about very well like buying an Apple iPhone. It is given fact that iPhone component’s come from around the world like silicon chips, memory chips, touch screen materials, etc., and are assembled either in Taiwan or China.
Therefore, it should be logical that it should be cheaper to buy the Apple iPhone either at the source of these components or at the assembling plants in China or Taiwan.
Yet, the fact is the cheapest most competitive market to buy an iPhone is in the United States of America (USA). This is because of one sole reason that it is the major trading place and largest market for these devices.
Large demand combine with competition has always proven that the cheapest places to buy anything is where the item is traded the most. You can ask anyone in the color gemstone business about Thailand. They will agree to the fact that Thailand is one of the largest and major markets for color gemstones.
Negative: Treatment Hub
But, here are some things you do have to worry about and avoid when buying gemstones in Thailand. You should keep this in mind when you do decide to buy a gemstone from any wholesaler or retailer.
- Thailand is consider the experts in all the new treatments in color stones including. – Heat treatment, synthetics, glass-filled rubies, diffused color treatment sapphires, irradiation topaz, dyeing, waxing and oiling emeralds, etc.
Negative: Not Diamond Trading Hub
Thailand does not have strong expertise in diamonds. Diamonds are traded at a premium price compared to larger and competitive markets. – like Antwerp, New York, Mumbai or Tel Aviv.
Now with all these facts in mind, how do you go about in buying a gemstone in Thailand?
In Bangkok –
A good starting point is to check the Thai Gems & Jewelry Trader Association (TGJTA) website. On the site, you will get a list of gemstones dealers or traders. (http://www.en.thaigemjewelry.or.th/Membership-Thaigemjewelry).
This site is not completely updated and information is not 100% accurate. But it is better than having nothing in hand. But, the list is quite extensive and it can take you weeks to look at it. Of course, if you do have the time and do your homework it can be very rewarding.
Silom, Suriwong, and Bangrak
For most higher-end color gemstones – rubies, sapphires, emeralds, tourmaline, etc., – you should check the end of Silom area. A good starting point will be Jewelry Trade Center, JTC. (http://www.jewelrytradecenter.com/contact-us/). This is fourth-largest building in Bangkok. So it is hard to miss.
In the building for example, it houses:
a) The TGJTA office
b) Asian Instituted of Gemological Sciences (AIGS) gem lab
c) GemResearch Swisslab (GRS) gem lab.
d) Many gemstone wholesalers and dealers.
Also on the ground floor of the building you will see “gem booths.” This is a good place to start practicing your art of negotiating skills.
Other places to visit are areas next to JTC, which is the end of Silom, Suriwong, and Bangrak. This area stretches from JTC to the Chao Phyra river.
Their are lines of gemstone wholesales shops around here with over 1,000 dealers. Most are concentrated in soi Mahesak Road (between Silom and Suriwong),
Warner Building in Mahesak, Executive House in Suriwong and Gem Tower in Bangrak. Most dealers here will be honest and won’t sell you fake stones without their own knowledge. But, you do have to be careful when negotiating price. And do double check with cheap local independent lab, if the stone you are buying is what stated. (More details provided below)
For “semi-precious” stones or synthetics. Includes garnets, citrine, amethyst, cubic zirconia, etc.,. The best place to buy these stones is near Chinatown a place nicked name “Wat Koh.” The official name of the lane called Songwad Road, in Samphantawong.
The lane itself is quite crowded. But you will definitely get very good deals and most shop owners are quite reliable.
In Chanthaburi, Thailand –
Chanthaburi located 280 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. Considered the cutting, manufacturing and treatment center for color gemstones in Thailand. It started off in the 1960s till 1980s as the Thai gemstone source of corundum (sapphires and rubies).
But, these sources were quickly depleted. Because of the extensive use of modern equipment and major mining operations. The town however, adapted itself by learning in those 20 years about treatments. They are now experts in treating low-quality rubies or sapphires. Make low-quality gems look spectacular.
This is done by new treatments like:
a) chemically diffused
c) irradiation, etc.
This expertise has made it the source for low-quality ruby and sapphires.
You can buy gemstones here in the middle of town. Where you can rent tables or go to reliable dealers offices. The dealers’ offices help to call brokers to bring you the gemstones you need.
Chanthaburi is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Usually, most gemstone dealers from Bangkok go there.
The typical stones you will find here is usually of lower grade then in Bangkok. This is because the higher end usually go straight to dealers in Bangkok.
Also, dealers in Chanthaburi do come to Bangkok in the weekdays (Silom area again). So, you can see the same stones in Bangkok as well.
Once you have decided where you want to buy. Below are some guidelines on what you should do when you are at dealers, retailers or gem market:
The credentials of the office and retailer is true and correct. Again this does not mean bigger offices or retail shops are better.
Reliable wholesalers and retailers will have business licenses in a frame. Located at the front of their office. Also in front are large sign of their company name at the front door.
This is required by law in Thailand if you are operating a business. Also, most reliable dealers are registered in the TGJTA Directory. Members and will also be listed on their website (link is provided above).
Neutral Light Setting
Make sure the place where you buying the gemstone has neutral light. This means normal sunlight from the window. Or quality artificial “daylight” lighting. This is recommended by GIA when checking a color for gemstones.
This is important because in yellow light rubies will look redder. While in “strong” unnatural white light makes darker emeralds or sapphires look lighter and better.
Ask specific questions to dealers or salesperson about the gemstones. Then see how they respond.
This is were some common sense and understanding people skills come in handy. Some examples of pointed specific questions are:
Question One: Treatment
Has this gemstone been treated?
If no, can you show me how you know or do you have a certificate?
If yes, in what way has it been treated? Has it been heated, chemically diffused, irradiated, dyed, oiled, waxed or glass-filled?
Question Two: Experience
What experience do you have in dealing with gemstones?
How long have you been in the trade for?
Do you have any credentials like graduate gemologist degree from GIA. Or anyone in the office who does?
If not, how can you tell if a stone is natural or treated?
Question Three: Return Policy
Do you have a return policy if the gemstone you stated is not exactly what you sold? If the answer is NO, just walk away right now.
Question Four: Third Party Certification
I am interested in buying this stone but it is currently not certified.
Can you get it certify for me at the local lab here? Examples are:
a) Gemological Consultancy
b) Tokyo Gem Laboratory
c) Gemological Consultancy
Or another reliable third party lab?
If the dealer answer is NO, you should walk away as it only cost US$10 to do it. (more details provided in the next point)
Get Third Party Certificate
If the stone is not certified. It is a good idea in getting it certified in smaller local labs in Bangkok or Chanthaburi. This will provide you a quick but reliable idea of what type of stone you are acquiring.
These labs are usually 95% accurate. They also have a lot of experience in dealing with new treatment stones. Both labs which I listed below have used by me many times and cost only US$10 (Thai Baht 300). Both are at the end of Silom road where almost all the dealers are located:
a) Name: Tokyo Gem Laboratory (Thailand) Co., Ltd. Address: 987 Rama Jewelry Bldg., 3 Fl., Silom Rd., Bangrak, Bangkok 10500 – Telephone: +662-635-2030-2
b) Name: Gemological Consultancy International. Address: JTC, 341 A/A, 3RD Floor, Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500 – Telephone: +662 630 0699, +66 83 916 7158
Trust, No Pressure!
If a dealer or salesperson is trying to sweet talk, pressure or push you to buy the stone, just walk away.
Until you are satisfied and trust a dealer you should never buy a gem stone from them
Finally, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. It is always important to try to negotiate the price with dealers.
A good starting point is 50% below their asking price and see how they react.
Again, this skill takes time and practice. And sometimes their are good deals without negotiating. However, you have nothing to lose in asking for a better price.
Contact us today to get all your wholesale gemstones, diamonds and jewelry needs. We can Source, Search and Supply anything you require.
What will you get if you contact us
- Start a conversation with us at FB.com/ThaiNativeGems/
- Get wholesale and highly competitive prices of gemstones & diamonds from anywhere through our extensive network of contacts around the world
- All stones sold by us is verified in house by our GIA Graduate Gemologist or certified
- We provide personalized service and NOT the same old “One Size Fits All” Approach
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