A dazzling display of Thailand’s precious jewels and gemstones
Thailand has a long history with jewellery, including gold-crafting and goldsmith techniques originally introduced by Hindu settlers some 2,000 years ago, and one of the most vibrant gem markets in the world. In addition to locally sourced baubles—like the famous dazzling red ‘Siamese Rubies’ from Chanthaburi, and sapphires sourced from Khanchanaburi, Phecthabun, and Sukhothai (among other locales)—Thailand’s centralized location in Southeast Asia has made it an ideal gateway for gemstone trading worldwide.
However, it can all seem a bit of a murky world to outsiders, full of frauds, fakes, and forgeries, so a visit to the SiamGems Heritage Museum presents an ideal opportunity to shine some light this glamorous part of Thailand’s multi-faceted heritage.
Open for just over a year now, the state-of-the-art museum is a gem in its own right; starting with its space age exterior, and continuing throughout the entire interior. The humungous 5 million baht golden elephant sculpture that greets you as you enter the glittering spacious atrium is based on a style from the early Ayutthaya kingdom, and depicts two elephants walking in Thailand’s main river—the Chao Phraya—and symbolizes eternal fortune and prosperity.
The tour begins with a 360-degree surround-sound short film, which takes you through the story of the natural creation of gold and precious gems, the often back breaking labour involved in finding them, and the craftsmanship that goes into the end product. Afterwards your journey winds through the museum’s five themed rooms, each of which adds to the complete story.
Room 1 recounts the History of Jewellery, from the Bead Age to the Bronze Age and on to the Gold Age—some 6,000 years B.C.—when Thailand became known as Suvarnabhumi or “land of gold”. Room 2 is the Reflection Room, which uses holograms to help demonstrate the different types of cuts and shapes into which a gemstone can be fashioned. Room 3 is called the Chamber of Virtue and focuses on the Nopparat belief system in which nine gemstones—ruby, moonstone, zircon, emerald, yellow sapphire, diamond, blue sapphire, garnet, and chrysoberyl—are the symbols of the nine celestial beings; frequently used for religious and royal celebrations, decorations, and insignias. Room 4 showcases the stunningly beautiful SiamGems Tiara of the Lady, while the 5th and final room is a comprehensive history and journey through every aspect of jewellery making—from the initial design, to cutting, framing, and mounting. Here you can read the historical timelines detailing the evolution of design, along with the changes in fashions that have taken place through the ages. You can also see the tools used at every stage of the design and manufacturing process and, at the end, use an interactive screen that allows you to design your own piece of jewellery and send it to your home e-mail.
By Gary Anthony Rutland
SiamGems Heritage Museum
234 Pradithmanutham Rd.
Open daily: noon-5pm
Tel: 02 949 9500