GemSelect March 2014 Newsletter: Siamese Sapphires
Chanthaburi Jewels Back to Top
Chanthaburi (pronounced "Jantaburi" , but officially transliterated into English as "Chanthaburi") is a small, unassuming town on the Eastern Seaboard of Thailand that shares a border with Cambodia. Those not involved in the gem trade will probably have never heard of it. In fact most tourists tend to pass through Chanthaburi on their way to tropical islands such as Koh Chang in Trat. However, Chanthaburi is the jewel in the crown of Thailand's gem trade and an international center for colored gems. In fact, the local university, Burapa, has a faculty of gems and offers special courses in gemology and jewelry.
Chanthaburi is home to not only mineral wealth, but a wealth of expertise when it comes to processing gemstones.
History of Chanthaburi Gems Back to Top
It all began with the local mining of rubies and sapphires. A local legend says that the gems of Chanthaburi came from a bright light that shone over the night sky and then fell to earth. In the place where it fell, villagers saw a green glow coming from a hole in the ground, which they named "the mother of gems". However, when they tried to touch the mother of gems, she flew away, followed by her babies. It is said that the baby gems left behind in the earth are the gems of Chanthaburi.
These mineral deposits were mined from as early as the 1400s and while most deposits are now depleted, there are still small mines in operation to this day. The main gem rush occurred from around the mid 1800s, when the Siamese jewels were mined by the Shan people, who came from Burma.
Natural Wealth of Chanthaburi Back to Top
The mineral wealth of Chanthaburi led to it being a center for gem trade, and despite the main gem rush being over now, Chanthaburi still hosts a busy gem market at the weekends. The interesting thing about the weekend gem market is that the buyers sit at a desk and the sellers are the ones who walk around.
Chanthaburi has remained a colored gem center because the gemologists of Chanthaburi have diversified their gem processing to include colored gems of many types. Although nowadays most rubies and sapphires that are traded here come from outside Thailand, these precious stones still pass through Chanthaburi, where they arrive rough, to be fashioned into the shining gems that are made into fine jewelry.
Siamese Sapphires Back to Top
Sapphires from Chanthaburi can still be found here in several interesting colors, as well as the traditional blue. Chanthaburi also has rare black star sapphires, which have rutile inclusions that cause asterism (the star effect). The black and gold star sapphire is indigenous to Thailand. Other Chanthaburi sapphires include golden yellow sapphires, sometimes referred to as "Mekong whisky sapphires" due to their golden hue. Also there are green sapphires in shades from deep green to bluish-green and yellowish-green.
Featured Gems - Chanthaburi Sapphires Back to Top
The stone on the right is a beautiful oval faceted, green sapphire with flashes of blue, from Chanthaburi. Sapphires belong to the corundum family. Red corundum is known as ruby and all other colors are referred to as sapphire. Green sapphire is colored by small amounts of iron. With a Mohs scale hardness score of 9, sapphire is an extremely durable gemstone. Sapphires are also the birthstone for September.
The above is a "Mekong whisky" golden yellow Chanthaburi sapphire. As with the green sapphire, its color comes from traces of iron. Professional gemologists in Chanthaburi have developed ingenious ways to enhance sapphires and bring out their rich yellow hue. Yellow sapphires range in color from pale yellow to a deep honey or deeper orange color. According to metaphysical beliefs, yellow sapphire brings wealth, prosperity and success.
This black star sapphire is also from the "sapphire capital of the world", Chanthaburi. This star effect, known as asterism, is the result of tiny rutile inclusions, also referred to as "silk". When there are two sets of inclusion; rutile and hematite, a twelve-rayed star can occur. In order to display asterism, star sapphires are cut into cabochons.
Gem and Jewelry News Back to Top
Gem & Jewelry Events for February 2014 Back to Top
Customer Questions Back to Top
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- First Published: February-28-2014
- Last Updated: August-13-2019
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