My first introduction to Thailand jewelry was on my initial visit to Phuket, Thailand in 2005. A tour operator took me to see the world's biggest jewelry store, known as the Gems Gallery which was opened in 1998 and occupies over 12,000 square metres of floor space and employs around 500 staff.
I was so impressed with the pieces on offer that I purchased a lovely hammer set ring on that visit, and have purchased other pieces of Thailand jewelry including our wedding rings. Jewelry outlets can be found across Thailand especially in shopping malls in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, ranging in size from the small to the obnoxiously large.
Jewellery made of Thai gold is famous. For those who find it to heavy and the gold to yellow, the fascinating jewellery produced by silversmiths provides a viable alternative. Graceful pieces are made in the ancient niello technique of decorating gold or more frequently silver- in more recent times also copper and bronze with a black inlay on which patterns of figures are engraved. The grooves thus created are filled with a past of powdered copper, silver, lead and sulphur with a flux and the whole surface is then polished.
My experience purchasing gems and jewelry in Thailand is that it can be done with confidence if you shop at a reputable outlet. The jewelry industry in Thailand is
said to be governed by government trading rules with the quality of gems and jewelry being examined and
guaranteed by internationally accredited agencies including the Asian Institute
of Gemological Science, the International Gemological Institute,
and the Gems and Jewelry Institute of Thailand.
The several items of Thai jewelry I have purchased in Phuket and Bangkok have been provided with a certificate of assurance which in essence is a written guarantee of the authenticity and quality of the jewelry purchased.
Thailand is fortunate not only have jewelry artisans following traditions dating back hundreds of years but also substantial gemstone resources within the Kingdom. Thailand has developed its gold and silver craft with its wide use of precious and semi-precious stones, however diamonds have never been extracted from Thailand's natural deposits.
The combination of emeralds, sapphires and rubies being used together with gold are said to have been perfected about 600 years ago. This style has been evidenced by items of material culture used by Thai royalty of the Ayutthaya period, which includes crowns, swords and items of clothing such as slippers.
Thailand's interest in the gems and jewelry craft is said to date back at least several hundred years. Rich deposits of red rubies had been found in Chanthaburi (an eastern province of Thailand) as had blue sapphires but these precious stones were also noted in other locations including Sukhothai, Si Saket and Ubon Ratchathani to name but a few.
Utilising these natural gem resources, local artisans began to incorporate such gems into silver and gold jewelry. Before Thailand was known as the 'land of smiles' their beautiful gem stones had given Thailand the name of the 'land of jewels'.
Thailand jewelry, at least in relation to silver is said to have been heavily influenced by a number of distinct minority nomadic groups who live in the north of Thailand near the Burmese and Lao borders; known as the northern hill tribes.
These groups which include the Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Meo originally migrated from China over a hundred years ago and due to their isolation in the north of Thailand, maintained their traditional knowledge of arts and crafts including the use of silver dating back several hundred years.
While each social group or hill tribe had it's own cultural and artistic traits, for some including the Karen tribe this included the wearing of silver rings, necklaces and bracelets which was and still is a distinct display of their identity and wealth. Thus, the skills and jewelry designs once practiced and found in the northern Thailand villages are now mass produced in places such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
Today the Thailand jewelry industry has evolved from this small scale artisan level to a large scale foreign exchange money earner which in 2011 was said to be worth around 10 billion USD for the Thailand economy and government.
Thailand's gold craft on the other hand dates back to around the 1st Century A.D in the Chao Phraya region of Thailand where early Thai artisans were inspired by Hindu people from India, bringing with them early gold pieces and a knowledge of gold artistry dating back approximately two thousand years. These early Hindu settlers or the 'Mon people' are said to have heavily influenced the initial gold industry in Thailand including the use of rubies set in gold.
Prior to 2004, Thailand had come under criticism for producing poor quality copies of more popular designs because their fine jewelry was said to be designed by business people rather than by Thailand's artists according to Richard W Hughes (author of "Thailand's Jewelry Industry: A 'black paper' on the state of the trade").
Today Thailand jewelry is earning a reputation of providing quality and reasonably priced gold and silver pieces and by being the world's largest trader of colored gemstones. This reputation is further bolstered as Thailand is considered to be one of the world's five best jewelry polishing centres along with the United States, India, Israel and Belgium. Indeed, they are known for developing their unique 'Bangkok cut' style.
In addition, Thailand is said to be renowned for their precision cutting of gemstones (including jade, emerald, sapphires and rubies), a skill which they gained by their close proximity to Burma which is a major source of colored gemstones.
I hope this page as been helpful for you in relation to information regarding Thailand jewelry. I hope you will visit this site again as I will be updating this page following my next visit to Thailand.