Published/Last edited or updated: 24th June, 2018
The local gem business began centuries ago when rubies and sapphires, among other precious stones, were discovered in rural parts of Chanthaburi, Trat and western Cambodia. Shan traders from Burma arrived to organise the mining industry in the 19th century, setting off a “gem rush” that caused the resource to become largely depleted by the end of the 20th century. Nowadays the province has only one mine of significance, yielding the area’s signature yellow sapphire near Khao Ploi Waen hill some 10 kilometres west of town.
But the industry has become entrenched and a community of experts keeps gems flowing through town. These now include stones mined around Asia and the world, from blue sapphire to emerald and diamond. The trade continues to make help make Chanthaburi one of Thailand’s wealthier provinces while drawing jewellers and traders from Europe, Africa and beyond.
A bunch of long-standing gem shops line Si Chan Road and Trok Kachang towards the south end of town, not far from Chanthaboon old town. Some spots employ powerful magnifying glasses along with cutting and polishing equipment. Others purchase the finished unset stones and craft them into rings and other jewellery for retail.
You’ll find plenty of shops open on weekdays, but those seeking the full Chanthaburi gem experience should check out the street market that overtakes Trok Kachang on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from morning to late afternoon. Unset stones are laid out on tables in a surprisingly casual manner that’s similar to how Thai food markets are arranged.
If you’re not schooled in distinguishing your emeralds from pretty pieces of green glass, you might want to stick to browsing.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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