Thailand: Chanthaburi - The Gemstone Capital

116 images Created 18 Feb 2014

Little known to most but to those inside the gemstone industry Chanthaburi town, 5 hours east of Bangkok, is a big deal and one of the world’s most important coloured gemstone trading centres. Rubies and sapphires have been mined commercially here since the 1850’s yet always by hand.

But large-scale machinery was brought in from the 1960's and uncontrolled mechanised mining practices exhausted the land of most of its stone in about 30 years. During these 30 years Chanthaburi provided the world with almost 95% of its ruby supply. By 1996, the rubies had finished, with just small pockets of sapphires remaining. Having to come up with a solution or loose everything the illustrious Thai gem traders left Thailand and began traveling, to South Asia and Africa buying up huge quantities of rough stones, mostly ruby and sapphire and bringing them back to Chanthaburi.

Once back in Chanthaburi, the stones were heat treated, cut and sold for a much higher price and people became very rich as a result. Thai traders bought so much rough stone that Chanthaburi became the heating and cutting capital of the world.
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