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Avoiding Scams

The gem scam usually takes the form of a friendly stranger striking up a conversation with you and luring you to a gem shop which is offering a 'one day only' saleor something similar. They will sometimes claim to be from the Tourism Authority of Thailand or some government department. Be aware that:

  • The Thai government and/or the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) does not own, sponsor, promote, endorse or authorize any gems stores in particular and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is lying.If someone recommending you buy gems from a particular shop tries to show proof that they are from the TAT the ID is bound to be fake. It's easy to get a fake ID in Thailand.

  • It is not really in the Thai culture for a lone person to approach a stranger and start a conversation. Therefore if you are approached by a lone individual, particularly one who speaks English well, be very wary.

  • Real gem shops very rarely offer sales, and 'one day only' or 'export special' deals are definitely a scam.

  • It is impossible, even for a qualified gemologist, to tell the difference between genuine gems and a clever cut-glass fake without the proper equipment. If you buy without getting the gems tested independently, you are buying solely on the word of the shop. Also note that in the mid 90's, Russia perfected a system of using thermo-nuclear energy to produce a synthetic material that was identical to amethyst rough rock (at least to the naked eye). Thousands of fake amethyst stones flooded the Bangkok market, and there are a lot of moody gems around. No one is going to pay to have a semi-precious stone tested (it's totally impractical cost-wise), so many gemstone dealers are probably passing on this hookey gear to unsuspecting customers. THe best way to tell if amethyst is fake by looking at the design on the stone. If it looks like a diamond it's real, otherwise its probably fake.

    It's worth buying only from members of the Thai Jewel Fest Club, which is a non-profit orginization set up by the TAT, the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association, the police and the government. Members have to abide by a code of practice, which includes the provision of at least 80% refunds up to 45 days after purchase. The members are all reputable vendors and though it is impossible to guarantee there won't be any problems, it is much, much less likely than at a random shop a stranger takes you to. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has more information and a list of members of the Jewel Fest club. A branch of TAT will also be able to give you more information.

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