Thailand is famous for its Gold, Thai silver and precious gems. Every year, travelers from all over the world flock to tropical Thailand not only to indulge in exotic foods, fascinating culture and pristine beaches, but also in seek of fascinating bargains. On the top of many people's wish-lists are cravings for the luxurious purity of Thai gold and silver jewelry, as well as for the vast surplus of precious colored gems that Thailand has to offer. The history behind the developed markets for Thai gold, silver and gems runs deep through the veins of many generations of Thai people. Gold, silver, jewelry and gems can be found everywhere in Thailand and in every kind of establishment, from overly ritzy five-star hotel gift shops to small shacks disguised as shops in one of the abundant open air markets scattered all around Thailand.
History Precious Metals
Early Hindu settlers of Thailand introduced Thai culture to the art of gold-crafting nearly 2000 years ago. Hindu traders and explorers slowly made their way from Southern and Eastern India and their goldsmith techniques eventually spread to the dwellers of natives located in the Chao Praya basin. Their first gold jewelry designs surfaced sometime in the 1st century and were very obviously inspired by Hindu culture. Nowadays, the jewelry designs created by the Thai people are much more modernized, but their attention to detail and the intricacy of their work has never been sacrificed. Gold trade in Thailand is so heavily trusted and relied upon, that it is very common for Thais to use gold and gold jewelry as a form of readily available cash, because for many Thais, faith lies in the continued strength and reliability of gold rather than with fluctuating paper currency.
The ancient Hindu civilizations had great influence on the design of silver jewelry as well. The same Hindu inspirations used in the design of Thai gold were also used to create astonishing pieces of silver jewelry. Chiang Mai, Thailand is one of the world's most famous silver cities. Originally, the majority of silver craftsmanship was put towards silverware and other decorative pieces, such as trays, ladles and bowls. With modernization came the development of finer silverwork and the industry made a turn towards the production of fine jewelry pieces. Northern Thai silver was soon to be manifested as a result and much of the credit is owed to the influence of Burmese refugees who handed down generations of art of craft.
Thailand Gem Trading Today
Thailand has been one of the largest hubs for precious colored gems and rightfully so, boasting one of the greatest gem markets in the world. The gem and jewelry industry is the Kingdom's fourth largest source for export income. Earnings from the gem trade are steadily increasing year after year. Previous forecast earnings of $5.82 billion USD were toppled over, despite the forecast being a 20 percent increase over the previous year. Thailand's bordering nations are Burma and Cambodia, as well as neighboring Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is world famous for production of Ceylon sapphire, Burma (Myanmar) is renowned for Burmese rubies and Cambodia is also popular for its exportation of excellent Pailin sapphire. Although Thailand has its share of gems mined from within, the centralized location is absolutely ideal for gemstone trading. There are many gem trading cities in Thailand, such as Mai Sot, Mai Sai, Chiang Mai and Bangkok, but the real heart of the gem trade lies within Chanthaburi.
Only recently over the last century has the gem industry really come to life in Thailand. Prior to modernization, gold and gems were exclusive for royalty. Those that could afford jewelry began purchasing gems as soon as they were no longer an exclusive prerequisite to the Royal Family. The phenomenal increase in demand for gemstones and jewelry caused an inevitable spike for skilled goldsmiths and gemstone cutters. Soon enough, the small village labor would evolve itself into the monumental industry it is today.
Thailand today is the largest international gem trading center, with millions of gems being cut, polished, sold, imported and exported every day. The ideal location and surplus of resources is an unbeatable combination. There are countless bargains to be found with gold, silver, and gemstone jewelry, but we urge all to be cautious. Although there are many honest jewelry and gem sellers, there are also numerous scrupulous cons to be aware of. If something is within your budget and it's only meant to be a souvenir, then by all means it's safe to purchase. Unless you're a gem and jewelry expert, GemSelect recommends avoiding any 'bargains' that are too good to be true, unless it is from a reputable vendor. To read more on buying gems in Thailand, be sure to read our related articles.