Gem and jewelry exports shine amid slowdown
Exports of gems and jewelry are providing some luster to an otherwise dreary export picture as shipments from the sector are forecast to rise 10 percent this year to $7.9 billion, placing it among the top five export products of the country.
In the first quarter of 2016, exports of gems and jewelry, excluding gold, rose 3.1 percent to $3.36 billion. If exports of gold are included, shipments of gems and jewelry were up 72.3 percent to $4.72 billion in the first quarter.
Malee Choklumlerd, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, attributed the resilience and strong growth in exports of gems and jewelry to the recognition in many markets that Thai gems are of high quality and its jewelry is characterized by fine designs. Gems and jewelry have consistently been among the Kingdom’s top-ten exports.
Thailand actually has limited gem resources at this point in time. Once rich in gemstones, Thailand mined much of its precious stones, most notably rubies and sapphires, long ago, although some rubies from Chantaburi and sapphires from Kanchanaburi can still be found. The Kingdom now imports most of its raw stones from neighboring countries, particularly Myanmar which still has plentiful deposits of rubies, sapphires and jade.
Although Myanmar’s markets have been opening to the world in recent years, many gems are still sent to Thailand because of the superior skills of its jewelry cutters, polishers, designers and craftsmen.
Likewise, DeBeers of South Africa, the world’s largest diamond company, routinely sends diamonds to Thailand for cutting and jewelry making because of the quality skills of Thai gem cutters and jewelry makers. In fact, Thailand has an industrial estate, Gemopolis, dedicated to the gem and jewelry business.
Diamond polishing has an important role in the Thai economy in terms of employment and income generation. Diamonds are Thailand’s third most important export product in the gem and jewelry category, and polished diamonds are the main product in this category. Thailand’s major markets for diamond export included Hong Kong, Belgium, India and the United States.
Most Thai gems and jewelry are exported to India and China, with the European Union as the third largest market.
The government is promoting gems and jewelry exports, and has invited Fiera di Vicenza, a famous brand from Italy, to join the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair, which will take place September 7-11 at the Impact Center. About 30,000 participants from around the world are forecast to attend.
Malee said that Thailand and Italian brands will also cooperate on organizing a gem and jewelry fair between the two countries.
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