We are back from our travels through Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka and had the pleasure of looking at literally many hundreds of stones. I limited myself to specific varieties but when one sees those stones that just jump out at you because of their colour, brilliance and good cutting, you just have to buy them.
Overall, we found that stones of top quality were in very short supply because of aggressive buying by the Chinese over the last few years. In Bangkok, varieties such as tourmaline had price hikes of over 100% since I last visited in 2012 and only a few small Nigerian stones were available. Collector gems, when found, were generally very small, below 1 carat. There was no sign of many of the gems listed on my site. The Jewellery Trade Centre in Silom has been expanded but mainly with stalls selling common quartz gems. The quality of stones available has certainly dropped and I found little of interest. My friends of old had some good stones which I bought but they say little new rough is available. Best stones were a 3.6ct Merelani mint garnet, some nice Cambodian blue zircons, three grape pyrope garnet cushions which my wife snatched as ring and earring stones and some good red spinels.
In Burma most spinels were included and I had difficulty in finding clean stones. I did get some great red, violet and purple stones after scouring Scotts Market in Yangon for two days. Prices were high as the Chinese had been bulk buying and haggling to get a reasonable price was a chore. Best find was a 3.2 carat Sphene, brownish background but incredible light flashes of all colours. Besides rubies and sapphires, I didn’t see a single large collector stone I would have wanted for my collection. Again the quality just wasn’t there after Chinese buying. Disappointing, but as my Burmese friends say, many things are happening in the country and in Mogok and the usual gem supply line is just not there.
In Sri Lanka Chrysoberyls over 5 carat were rare but I did manage to get some fine green Chrysoberyls up to 3 carat. I found a neon yellow 5 carat chrysoberyl which I just had to buy but I saw only one green beryl in three days of looking and aquamarines of any colour were hard to find. In Ratnapura I had a succession of gem dealers show me their stones. There were some very fine Sinhalites and Hessonite garnet, both yellow and red, but there does not appear to be a market for these varieties. Surprising, as a nice yellow Sinhalite with no brown undertone can be as bright and attractive as many unheated yellow sapphires.
The local miners told me few larger stones had been found recently. Blue and yellow sapphires were freely available at reasonable prices and my wife scored a nice 4 carat yellow sapphire which we had made into a ring together with matching earrings. Manufacturing jewellery prices are very good in Sri Lanka, about 25% of the cost of Australian jewellery and the quality of work in 18ct gold is excellent. If you ever get to Sri Lanka, plan on finding some good ring, earring or pendant stones and get them set in Sri Lanka and you will be pleased at the result. There is no export duty.
Recollecting, I consider Sri Lanka the best place to buy gems, especially sapphires as the prices are more reasonable, and the people nicer to deal with. They won’t try to sell you poor quality stones if they feel you are knowledgeable. Bangkok has become too commercialised and tourist orientated.
I would never buy rubies there. The Jewellery Trade centre or Galleria was a place for quality stones, not any more. Burma has been disappointing with gem supply of quality and rare collector stones severely reduced.
In Sri Lanka I engaged the services of Ahmed Shareek of Crescent Gems to take us to Ratnapura, to organise to get all the gem miners and dealers to meet us and show us the available stones.
I met and used Ahmed in our previous visit to Sri Lanka to our extreme satisfaction.
Ahmed helped in finalising prices of stones and in negotiations. All for the cost of 5% of gem purchase prices which was extremely cheap. There were no other costs. We wanted to get some of the gems set in jewellery so Ahmed took us to a jeweller where designs were discussed and prices set. Ahmed charged nothing.
The jewellery was ready when we left Sri Lanka and the quality of workmanship was excellent.
I sincerely recommend anyone using Ahmed’s services when visiting Sri Lanka. It is so much easier.
I have used his services before especially recutting windowed stones and I have always been pleased with his work.
I will be adding my new purchases to the site over the next few weeks.
Anyone interested in jewellery sized spinel and chrysoberyl, 2-4 carat may contact me stating their preferences for colour and cut and I will let them know what is available.