In our newsletter this month:
The economy here in Thailand depends heavily on exports. In fact more than two thirds of our gross domestic product is based on selling products to the rest of the world.
Thailand is most famous as the world's top exporter of rice. But in 2008, the export value of gems and jewelry exceeded that of rice, with more than USD $9 billion of product shipped to countries around the world.
The supply chain for this important industry begins in our home town of Chanthaburi, a small town with a population of about 50,000, located 250 km to the east of Bangkok. Gemstone material from around the world is brought here to be cut and polished, and nearly almost every street has family-run gem cutting workshops.
Chanthaburi probably offers the lowest prices in the world for loose gemstones. But not all of the town's production is exported directly; many gems are set into jewelry by factories in Bangkok.
The gem district in Bangiok is concentrated in an area of Silom Rd near the Chao Praya River. Since 1996, the district has been dominated by the Jewelry Trade Center, a 59-floor skyscraper that is the 4th tallest building in Bangkok. It houses the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS), a gem and diamond trading center, and the leading shopping center for jewelry, art and antiques in Bangkok.
The story of this landmark building represents the evolution of the gem and jewelry business in Bangkok. The project was started by the Ho family, who immigrated to Thailand from Burma when General Ne Win took power in 1963. Originally from Southern China, the family had become successful in Burma over several generations. But they lost everything when they fled Burma and started over in Thailand. The father, Waing Kong Ho, opened a small jewelry business in Bangkok and then established himself as a successful gem broker with a reputation for honesty. His eldest son later established his own successful jewelry company, Bijoux Holdings, incorporating the latest Japanese production methods.
Mr Ho and his sons trained hundreds of young Thais in the gem and jewelry business. One of the Ho sons, Henry, was trained in gemology at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in California. When he returned to Thailand he started the AIGS lab to provide scientific training and gem certification for the Thai gem industry. AIGS is now one of the leading gem labs in the world, especially in the detection of gem treatments. It has helped Thailand become an important center for gems and jewelry.
Rare and Unusual Gems
Tourmaline is known for its fabulous colors. It is also a gem that can sometimes be found in large sizes. But very clean pieces weighing over 10 carats are very rarely found in the top colors. This 10.98 carat pink-red gem is a good example. At more than 25 mm long, this will make a simply stunning pendant.
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Happy gem hunting,
Your friends at GemSelect
- First Published: May-01-2009
- Last Updated: October-31-2014
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