Posted by: adventuressetravels | August 24, 2012

All that Glitters

Thailand is known for its inky blue sapphires and fiery rubies but be careful… all that glitters is not gold.  All that sparkles may not be gems.

One of the biggest and most pervasive cons in Thailand is the infamous gem scam.

The hooks are countless:  a kindly stranger or expat Thai will befriend a tourist on the street offering deals on amazing gems.  “Friendly” guides or tuk tuk drivers will apologize that a temple or tourist attraction is closed and then try give them a “get rich quick” idea.  Sometimes fortune tellers will advise tourists to buy auspicious gems.  Even monks may get in on the scam, but the precious gems and ornate jewelry are nothing more than colored glass and polished metal.

Before traveling to Thailand I’d read about this scam so when a tuk tuk driver offered my friend and me a huge discount to if we would stop by a gem factories I jumped at the opportunity.

The driver took us to a large building.  Though nondescript on the outside the interior was opulent.  We were greeted by a well-dressed Thai woman who asked me not to take photos but welcomed us into the richly furnished front room.  We were led past workers cutting stones and fashioning jewelry to an enormous back room filled with jewelry cases filled with rings and necklaces galore.  The woman described the quality of the deep blue sapphires and their enormous value compared to the minimal costs.

Needless to say I did not purchase anything, and if you have time, the experience of going to one of these places is highly entertaining, if you know what is really going on.  But don’t throw your money away on the costume jewelry however alluring it may seem.

When traveling in Thailand never trust any local who tries to befriend you on the street.  Though Thai people are generally quite friendly this type of forward behavior is not in their culture.  The people who do approach foreigners are probably trying to scam you.

The bottom line is that unless you are an expert or gemologist do not buy any precious stones or nice jewelry in Thailand.  Even with “certified” gems you take your chances.  If you have the time it can be fun to go to the jewelry factories, but don’t buy anything.  These treasures of the Orient are really just colored glass trinkets.


  1. Could a gemologist find any real sapphires in Vietnam?

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