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.