This is quite probably the least likely post for me to share, given my deep hatred for shopping, but being a married man and the perfect husband, I thought I’d share past experiences, to make them feel worthwhile. This is of course a beginner’s guide to jewellery shopping in Bangkok, as my early experiences barely passed the odd Swarovski at Bangkok Malls, online gift shops similar to Eternity Rose Canada, and fumbling through tourist traps. But the learning curve ultimately came when shopping for Fanfan’s diamond wedding ring, which was easily the most expensive purchase, although it was also frugal and affordable, given that I proposed on an itinerary through 5 different countries, before our engagement in Wicklow, Ireland). And I wasn’t going to risk some pricey Cartier in case it gets dropped along the way (and I could never afford one in my life). So here are some of the better options I found for jewellery shopping in Bangkok.
Avoiding the Scams
First off, there will always be the weighing of risk against price, and while bargains can be found in the city, there are probably just as many well-known scams to fall for. So I would obviously trust no-one on the streets, or the tuk-tuks, or the taxi drivers, and just stick to common sense. As if something sounds too good, or a little bit dodgy, then it’s best to just walk away. And unless knowledgeable in gems and proficient with the loupe, then I suggest sticking to the more reputable malls or ISO dealers, with accredited GIA (or similar) certified gems. Also be sure that you take away the exact jewellery you pay for, as scammers are known to occasional switch them after purchase. Anyway, for my own search it was for a diamond large enough to be GIA accredited, but small enough to not leave us in tears if lost along the way, and I was forced to learn the 4 C’s (cuts, color, clarity and carat) before the search begins.
Bangkok malls (a list of the bigger here) will always have small boutique shops as well as the better known jewellery brands, which of course vary in quality and price, many with online presence and e-commerce shopping as well. And while online stores are of course great for those with limited time and experience, and allow for price comparison without being in Bangkok, it’s probably best to purchase face-to-face for bigger buys. Otherwise the prices are similar to what you find on a hunt in popular jewellery and gem areas, and they can be ordered and customized in advance. So I would say it is the better choice. And as a lazy shopper, this was my obvious choice in the end with Fanfan’s engagement ring. The Emquartier and Terminal 21 make a good start.
Bangkok Gems Gallery (ISO 9001:2008)
This well-oiled jewellery outfit needs a mention, as not only is it said to be “The World’s Biggest Jewelery Store”, but it will often be pushed onto tourists where it is forced stop on some of the cheaper Bangkok city tours. In fact my first visit was on a day tour of the Grand Palace and temple area, when it was forced at the end, so it is somewhat of a tourist trap for jewellery in Bangkok. But it does have an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) although may also pay a premium for the privilege. Yes they are safe, but they maybe comparably expensive. Either way it is impressive, and is worth a visit as an introduction to buying jewelery in Bangkok as they offer free pickup and drop off with no obligation to buy. Similar outlets are also found at most tourist destinations in Thailand; including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya etc.
Chinatown and Beyond
The Chinatown area is well-known for its gold trade and gems at bargain prices, but it may not be the best place for the beginner, and while many reputable dealers will be found in the Chinatown area, you will also need the confidence in what you’re buying. Chinatown is definitely not for beginners. If planning a visit the best route is via taxi to Yaowarat Road, or nearby at Hua Lamphong underground MRT station. The next area to consider, which again is not for beginners, is the Bangkok Gems Tower, which is somewhat central to the jewellery and gems trade in Bangkok. The Gems Tower is found in the Silom area on the Silom skytrain line, and the Surasak Skytrain (BTS) would maybe be the best option here. While the Bangkok Gems Tower is primarily wholesale on upper floors, the first four floors offer retail with small and independent jewelry stores and accredited dealers. It’s definitely worth checking out.