BANGKOK PART 2: MINE TO MARKET
Gem cutting is a Thai specialty. They’ve dedicated an entire region of their city to the jewellery trade. Very recently, a 59 storey high-rise was built to keep up with growing demand as almost every major gem mining company in the world has a sizeable presence here.
The manufacturing and distribution of gems is a multi-billion dollar business for Thailand, and Bangkok is ground zero for all things gemstone related in Asia, if not the world. Although this industry is being contested by the emerging gemstone manufacturing market in India, most in the trade would agree that Bangkok still holds the belt.
This trip to Bangkok it’s business as usual—we’re here to primarily load up on sapphires, rubies, and emeralds for the holiday selling season for Cavalier and as well as various retail shops across Canada. A great addition this time around has been having Keith here to assist with the workload. For each nice gem we buy, we reject and sift through hundreds, sometimes thousands until we find the quality we need.
In keeping with tradition, my 85-year-old Grandfather, and mentor, learned of our trip and hopped with us across the pond to meet us—even though he’s been claiming since before I was born that his most recent trip was his last. He can’t seem to resist the opportunity to grab a few pieces for his personal collection while keeping his eye on the industry. Old habits and all that stuff.
It’s incredible to see how much the old guy enjoys the fruits of his lifetime’s worth of labour. His attitude is inspiring. Not to mention, there are very few things in life more satisfying than watching someone 60 years my senior tell a multi-millionaire gem mogul to “take a hike” (with hand gesture) during a heated bargaining session over a parcel of fine Burmese ruby.
Keith and I are privileged to travel across the globe chasing gems with him. However, during the flight, I was slightly jealous of him enjoying a full sleeper unit at the front of the 787, while Keith and I were in the back, brainstorming practical, questionable and illegal ways to make the crying baby in row 62 go to sleep. Not for real. That’d be mean.
During the first few days we snuck away from the bargaining tables to take a closer look at how a few of our gems were progressing with the cutters. We brought back a bunch of Cavalier’s older gemstones and put them into cutting production. Re-cutting old stock is the best way to renovate dead inventory into something more sellable. Although many gemstone cutters use traditional methods, there have been vast improvements in cutting precision with machine and laser cutting equipment over the last decade.
Cutting gemstones is a bit of a different approach than cutting diamonds. Most would agree that the ‘cut’ is the most important of the 4 Cs for diamonds but this is only partially true for gemstones. Yes, the cut is a very important facet, but holding the richest depth of colour is the most essential part of gemstones.
Thai cutters specialize in holding the gems colour and working the shape of the gem around other attributes, like colour zoning and inclusions, while maintaining a maximum yield. They’ve been doing this for hundreds of years… so roughly hundreds of years longer than it took the word to turn on Iggy Azalea.