The Jewel Box: Inside Thailand’s Gems Gallery

Raj Ajay Pandya | April 11, 2024 | Heritage

In the heart of Thailand’s bustling gemstone industry lies a hidden treasure trove, a sanctuary where the essence of luxury intertwines with the artistry of centuries-old craftsmanship. Chanthaburi province in eastern Thailand is a centre for mining rubies and sapphires. Nestled amidst the lush landscapes of the area lies a storied hill, known to locals as ‘Pagoda Hill‘ or the ‘Hill of Gems‘. Steeped in history, this enchanting place has been a beacon for gem enthusiasts since its discovery in 1850. Fast forward to 2024, and Thailand holds the position of one of the largest ruby exporters in the world, generating over $100M in revenue a year.

As I entered the Gems Gallery in Pattaya, I was welcomed into the inner sanctum of one of Thailand’s most renowned destinations for fine gemstones. A wonderfully designed miniature train, accompanied by background music, took us into the depths of an improvised dungeon where we learned about the mining process of precious stones. The train stopped at regular intervals, allowing the visitors to experience a 360-degree view of the mines. At one such stop, an AI-controlled robot was seen ploughing through the earth and checking the quality of the stones.

Taylor’s ruby and diamond necklace from Todd. Photo Credits: Cyrus McCrimmon//Getty Images

Throughout the ride, informative explanations accompany each stage of the mining process, providing insight into the challenges and techniques involved in extracting gems from the earth. The journey felt like a voyage, where the secrets of gemstone mining were revealed in a visually stunning and educational manner.

The magnificence of Thai gemstones is limitless. However, there are three categories in which the country’s exports shine and thrive: Ruby, Blue and Yellow Sapphire, and Diamond.

At the heart of rubies’ significance lies a delicate balance of characteristics that define their splendour — from the richness of their hue to the clarity of their cut. The true essence of a ruby is captured in its deep, blood-red tone, a hue that symbolises passion and vitality. While variations in shade may exist, it is the precision of a ruby’s craftsmanship that truly sets it apart, elevating it to a level of rarity and desirability.

Artisan at Gems Gallery Pattaya. Photo Credits: Online-Pattaya

In the summer of 1957, during a romantic holiday getaway, Elizabeth Taylor’s beloved husband, Mike Todd, surprised her with an exquisite treasure nestled within a vibrant red leather Cartier box. Within its confines lay a dazzling suite of 24 rubies, meticulously set amidst a backdrop of sparkling diamonds, forming an opulent bib necklace. Following Taylor’s death, the necklace alone fetched $3.7 million at auction, symbolising their enduring love.

At the conclusion of the train ride, guests were warmly greeted by a team of seasoned gemstone experts, ready to guide them through a dazzling display of fine jewellery. From resplendent diamond sets and intricately designed bracelets to delicate anklets and exquisite bridal adornments, the showcase was a testament to the artists at work. As we all marvelled at the array of treasures before us, one expert playfully remarked, “If you want her to say yes, you’ll find something truly special here.”

View of the Gems Gallery Pattaya; Artisan at Gems Gallery Pattaya

Set within a rectangular walkway, the gem shop features a unique architecture where artisans diligently work in their small cabins, adding an enchanting dimension to the showcase of precious stones. Here, visitors are not only treated to the spectacle of shimmering gems but also granted the exclusive opportunity to observe the skilled craftsmen in action, as they bring their creations to life.

In the end, it is not just the brilliance of the gems or the skill set of the artisans that captivates—it is the stories they tell, the dreams they inspire, and the memories they create. And in the heart of Thailand’s gemstone industry, those stories are as endless and as enchanting as the treasures themselves.

Words by Raj Ajay Pandya.
Featured image Pattaya Archives (Online).

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