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Buying Gems in Thailand

Greetings! My mom is planning a trip to Thailand in January and I
wondered about her buying stones/beads for me. Any ideas what she
should look for? What are the best deals over there? Any input is
greatly appreciated.


Tammy, Having bought in Thailand many times over the years I have one
bit of advise for you, forgetaboutit! Is Mom cognizant of gem
types, qualities, treatments, prices? If not, Mom is a disaster
waiting to happen. There is no consumer protection agency in
Thailand. My advise, let mom enjoy her vacation and tell her that
the cute, little smiling Thai who approaches her on the street and
will take her to his mother’s jewelry factory where she can buy
wholesale, is a shill for the factory.

Several years ago a young new age type couple came to my office to
ask my advise on buying in India. They had a connection with a very
sincere young Indian fellow who would set them up to buy gems at
dramatically low prices. They could import to the states and make
large piles of dough. Well, to make a long painful saga short, they
came to see me several months later, having ignored my advise. They
had with them strands of big honking ruby beads that they were
selling for $1-2 per carat. Well this was some of the African ruby
out of Moro Goro that I had seen in the rough at $125.00 per kilo or
.025 cents per carat in Nairobi. It had been shipped to India,
dyed, oiled and cut into beads in sold to them for 50 cents a carat.
It was opaque, greasy and plug ugly. They had sunk about 10
thousand in this stuff. Funny thing, none of the jewelers they
called on would buy it.

P.S. Maybe an Orchidian who lives in Thailand will help and guide Mom

Tammy, Having bought stones in Thailand most of the past nineteen
years, I’ll try to condense my knowledge of the subject into two
words: “CAVEAT EMPTOR”. If someone is looking for a "good deal"
they had better know what they are looking at and be adept at
bargaining. If your mom wants to pick up a couple of pieces just to
have as a reminder of her trip, that’s great. As for buying for you,
presumably for later resale, you’d do better in Tucson. Having said
all that, gem shopping in Thailand can be a lot of fun, even
adventurous fun. If you don’t have some expertise in gemology and
haggling, just set a limit on what you’re willing to lose, just like
in Vegas, and dive right in. If you do get some good deals, you’re
ahead of the game. Either way, you’ve had fun doing it. Bangkok is
pretty overwhelming, particularly for the first-timer. Without some
sort of intro into the gem trade, your experience there will be
strictly at the retail level. For the more adventurous, a trip to
Chantaburi during the Friday and Saturday gem market will bring you
closer to the “wholesale” action. There, anyone can play, but you’d
better know the game. Still, it’s an aspect of Thailand that few
tourists see, compared to the multitudes who pass through Bangkok
every year. I’ve also bought in Mae Sot, a town in Northwest
Thailand on the border with Myanmar (Burma). I’ve found good buys
there, but again, Haggle is the necessary language. There is an
article in the November 2003 issue of Lapidary Journal about the
writer’s buying trip to Mae Sot you and your mom may find
interesting. I don’t know if any of the above has been of any use to
you, but I’ve had fun writing it. It gets me mentally geared up for
another trip over there this February.

Jerry in Kodiak

dear tammy, she should visist thaigem store in bangkok. this
is one place she could get all the varieties that she could imagine

for special and exotic and real great stuff send her to me.


Tammy, I have no experience in buying in Thailand, but I recently
stumbled on this article that may be of interest to you:


I feel it is time for me to enter into this discussion. There are
two sides to every tale, and this is certainly one of them.

We do not have to leave the US to find less than reputable dealers.
It is not endemic to any other country in this world. there is good
and bad all over.

There are many ways to protect yourself from scams, first is to be
aware! Do your homework, contact the official Tourist Bureau for the
country you are entering, TOT in Thailand. Ask for references to
shops or stone dealers with integrity. Know what you are looking
for, focus on your quest and do not allow yourself to get led

I have spent much time in Thailand between 1963 and 1984, I love the
country and its people. I did not go off on my own and only dealt
with reputable shops. I knew when I went off the beaten path and
went to morning markets, or flea markets, there was a chance what
appeared to be silver, may not be at all. I bought for the ethnic
styles of the mountain folk with no expectations of first quality. I
was interested in what was created by the hands of the people.

It pains me to see places maligned in such a general manner. We are
responsible for ourselves, we need not be led by outrageous claims,
this is where greed steps in. It is “buyer Beware” no matter where.
IMHO Teresa

Hi: I have a friend who just got back from there. He was not very
educated in what to buy and could not tell fake from real. Know the
difference and be very careful. With today’s fragile loyalties your
just as likely to become a victim without some insider
info!reasearch and surrounding yourself with allies
is the best method. Ringman

Hi Tammy, Just a word of caution…unless your mother is a
gemologist, and/or incredibly well connected in the business in
Thailand, there are no bargains for tourists. The gem business there
is very well hidden from the general public, and the gem emporiums (“
Government run” we were told when we took some friends that wanted
to go there), are major tourist traps. My good friend insisted on
buying some ruby earrings, which looked great under 10,000 watts of
diamond halogens, but appeared to be more like garnets outdoors…I
stayed away from having an opinion about the whole transaction.

Bottom line, I have a stone dealer that travels to Thailand two or
three times a year, then sells wholesale to many jewelers in my area
(Toledo, OH), nice goods, great prices. When we travel to Thailand,
I might look at stones, but I know better than to buy. I know I don’t
know what I’m doing, and I’m sure to get ripped off. That’s my 2

Baker O’Brien