Gems, Gold, Pearls and Jewelry

Gems, Gold, Pearls and Jewelry 

Nowaday Thailand is a leading producer of sapphires and the world's largest cutter of coloured stones. Thai artisans can also craft jewelry to suit international tastes, with prices set according to the amount of workmanship and detail of the individual item. Gold jewellery and ornaments are also a bargain in Thailand, with prices fixed according to "baht" weight of the item and the level of craftsmanship.

Excellent bargains in gold chains, earrings, bracelets, pendants, and other delicate handcrafted items can be found in most tourist areas of Phuket, and most major hotels house jewelry stores offer exquisite pieces for less than you might imagine, with guarantees of authenticity. Along Ranong Rd in Phuket City are a number of traditional Chinese-Thai gold shop

Jewelry Shops in Phuket

Thai silver jewelry is often modeled after the traditional designs of the hilltribes of Northern Thailand, with bracelets particularly stunning examples of hilltribe silverwork. Modern styles of bracelets, as well as pendants, necklaces, beads and rings can also be found. Most silver sold is labeled '925', which means that it is made of 92.5% pure silver. Silver bowls, boxes, cigarette cases and vases are widely available.
s, distinctive for their completely red and gold interiors.

Pearls in Phuket

Cultured pearls, produced locally at Naka Noi Island are also a good buy. You can find them at many local shops in Phuket City, specialist jewellery places, or right on the island where they are cultured. Tours leave daily to Naka Noi Island and include a pearl demonstration and the opportunity to buy at discounted prices.

The Gems Gallery and Wang Talang are large stores devoted almost exclusively to jewellery. The range, especially at Gems Gallery, is huge, with modern European and Asian styles and certificates issued when you buy. Located on the bypass road on the edge of Phuket City, near Tesco-Lotus. For lovers of rare and antique jewellery, The Banyan Tree Galleries feature interesting pieces from around Asia.
Unless you're an expert in gems and jewellery, it is not recommened to buy such goods with the intention of reselling them back home for huge profits. Some elaborate scams have been set up to fool people into paying a high price for gems that are low quality at best or even worthless fakes.

Gems and Jewellery Advisory

There are occasional complaints from visitors about unethical jewellers who persuaded them to buy jewellery at an unreasonable price. There are also cases where gems purchased have turned out to be fakes. While such scams are largely carried out in Bangkok, there have been complaints about jewel purchases in Phuket.

To combat this problem, the Thai Gem and Jewellery Traders Association and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have formed a "Jewel Fest Club". The club aims to offer quality products at reasonable prices with a money-back guarantee if buyers are not completely satisfied. Some of the larger Phuket jewellers are in this program, so look for the Jewel Fest emblem while browsing the shop.

The TAT offers these tips for your protection:

  • Be wary of any encounter that ends up requiring your presence in a gem shop. Most probably it is a scam.
  • Buying gems or jewellery to resell at double or triple the purchase prices is an impossible proposition under any circumstances. Buy jewellery only for personal satisfaction for your own use or for loved ones.
  • Make price comparisons in various shops before deciding to buy. Never be in a hurry.
  • Never mail sapphires or other precious stones. Carry valuable items with you.
  • Do not believe special (jewellery) sales of any kind. Reputable dealers hardly ever offer sales and never send touts to lure tourists to their stores.
  • There are no promotions, shows or special sales on jewelry authorized by the government or any official agencies at any time of the year.
  • The government does not own, operate, subsidize, or authorize any jewellery stores.
  • As far as you can, take time to verify all claims. Words, promises, personal guarantees, unchecked documents, unauthorized verbal or written statements, casual references, encounters and the like do not constitute verification. Remember, you are your own best protection.
  • Thai embassies, consulates or any delegations abroad are neither bound nor responsible for refunding goods that are bought in Thailand. 

 Phuket Pearl Factory

I goes shopping for pearls – and not just any pearls, but pearls from a Phuket pearl farm. I talk with a local pearl farmer and owner of the Phuket Pearl Factory in Sapam about this classic staple of jewellery.
The owner, He loves to get down into the muck with his workers, making sure that his pearl oysters are good and healthy. And when he's not doing the dirty work on the farm, he enjoys coming up with innovative designs for pearl jewellery. 

A farm breeding pearl oysters in Sapum Bay near Koh Maphrao about 2km off the coast of Phuket

Pearl of Phuket

There are currently three active pearl farms in Phuket, the owner says. It’s not an easy business, he explains. Pearls grow in oysters that must be kept in the water for a long time, sometimes a year or more, before harvesting. Theft is a problem. Most pearl farm owners hire employees only for very short periods – a few days at a time – so that none of the workers can figure out when the pearls are ready to be harvested, and steal them.
“On top of this, it seems that the natural conditions around Phuket have been changing since the tsunami. The sea level is different – even the local fishermen are confused. The chemical composition of the water is also changing.
“We have to adjust a lot and study more in order to be able to continue producing pearls.”
All of this, however, has not stopped Khun Amorn from farming pearls. He does it, he says, for the love of it – though not blind love.

“In this business, you can’t expect a quick return. It wait long time, and you can’t really control most of the factors that influence pearl growth. Many people think I’m crazy to still dedicate time and investment after the tsunami,” he smiles.
In his case, he says, running a pearl farm is not just about how much money he has put in. He loves to experiment with the pearl-making process himself, not always successfully. There have been many times when he and his team had to throw away lots of oysters after putting in pearl nuclei because the experiments were a failure and the oysters were dying. “I remember once I had to throw away 500 oysters,” he says.
But he is undeterred, and continues in his attempts to advance pearl-making techniques and also to come up with new ways to use pearls in jewellery. Marketing he leaves to his brother – his own energies go into the creative end of the industry.

Observe A Fake Pearl

there is a popular misunderstanding about cultured pearls – that they are somehow not real. He explains that the difference between a natural pearl and a cultured one is simply the nucleus. In the case of a natural pearl, currents in the sea deliver the nucleus of the pearl – a grain of sand, for example. In the case of cultured pearls, the nucleus is inserted by hand. After that, the process is no different; the oyster does the work.

What is true is that there are fake pearls, mostly made from plastic. the owner offers this guide to telling the difference between real and fake.
• Check the weight of the pearl. A real pearl has some heft to it and is, of course, heavier than a plastic imitation.
• Feel the surface of the pearl. If you gently rub two pearls together and feel a slight grittiness, the pearls are real. If the sensation is smooth, it’s likely the “pearls” are made of plastic.
• Check for natural flaws. All real pearls have flaws because this is a natural process; the likelihood of a real pearl having a perfect shape, for example, is next to nothing. On the other hand, a good pearl should not have too many flaws.
• Sea pearls take time to produce. Some pearl shops may try to fool buyers into paying over the odds by selling them river pearls, which take a much shorter time to produce. Also, a river pearl oyster can produce 50 pearls or more, whereas its marine cousin can produce only one at a time.
• The most difficult scam to detect is pearls made from the dust left over after real pearls are made into jewellery. Using modern technology, this dust can be moulded into a “pearl” that is so like the real thing, with the right weight, luster and even colour, that it takes a professional to tell the difference.

What’s It Worth?

“Pearls are different from other luxury jewellery,” “There are no agreed standards for pricing them. It all depends on the buyer and seller.” Factors that may influence the price include current trends in colour and shape, or simply personal preferences.
Consumer behaviour varies also with age, he says. Most young women start out buying jewellery that is not too expensive, such as silver. As they get older they graduate to white gold, gold, diamonds and then other gems. “Pearls are usually the last category they go for. People who like pearls are different and are sure of their own identity,” the owner said.

“To get a perfect match of pearls to make a necklace or other type of jewellery takes a lot of effort. We usually trade among the pearl farms here to get a good match, or a good set for something like a necklace. We also buy South Sea pearls from other places for the same purpose,” Khun Amorn explains.
In his show room visitors can see a bewildering choice of shape, colours and prices. Some items sell for less than 5,000 baht, but prices of 100,000 baht and more are not extraordinary. Buyers can purchase pearls alone, or pearls made into jewellery such as earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings.
The most expensive item in owner’s showroom on the day we visited was a set of pearl necklaces priced at 1.8 million baht.

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