Beautiful opals

Opal is one of my favorite gems. Each one has its own unique personality. The spectral colors can be predominantly warm colors like reds and oranges in some and predominantly cool colors like blues and greens in others. Some opals will display the full range of spectral colors. On this trip, I was fortunate enough to buy about a dozen opals that have just blue.march 21 1 It is a very bright and intense blue like the colors seen in those little tropical fish called neon’s. The mines where they come from in the Mintabie area of Australia are now closed. The spectral flashes can be small or relatively large. They can occur on one plane of depth or sometimes on several planes of depth. Sometimes the flashes of color will even appear to roll across the gem and even change color as they roll. Regardless of the character of the colors, I like to use fine opals which are packed full of intense color. march 21 2Most of the opals we see available in America tend to have rather muted color flashes and sometimes large areas of the gem exhibit no color at all. I only select the best opals from the parcels offered, which are generally the best 5% or less. You will notice the smaller piles in the images which have been deemed eligible for use in the Trade Winds collection and the larger piles which I considered unfit.

Another factor which must be considered with opal is stability. Most of the opal in the Trade Winds collection is mined in Australia. Australian opal referred to as “old field”, (which is what I use for the Trade Wind collection) is mined near the surface of the earth in arid climates where it has been subject to severe weather and temperature changes over the years. This opal tends to be very stable. march 21 3Opal referred to as “new field” has been mined from greater depths and has never been subject to changing weather conditions.  When these are brought to the surface and become subject to changing temperatures and weather conditions, they can start to develop spontaneous cracks after a period of months or years.

march 21 4For over thirty years, I have been buying my Australian opals from the same business in Hong Kong. The proprietor, Peter, and I have been doing business together since we were in our twenties. For some reason, he never seems to age! Peter personally travels to the Australian opal fields and inspects the depth from which they are being mined to assure that the rough opal he is buying will be stable. As a further assurance, he ages the rough for at least one more year prior to cutting to be positive that it’s stable before cutting it.

He is concerned about the future of the opal business as the number of opal miners in Australia has dwindled from thousands to a few hundred over the years. He also says that it’s very difficult to find employees for his cutting shop in China. He says Chinese and Australian societies are placing ever more emphasis on higher education, leaving fewer and fewer young people available to enter manual labor or skilled craftsman jobs. With this in mind, I bought twice as many fine opals than usual as a hedge against finding it difficult to get more in the future. USA is facing the same sort of issue. There are almost no young people entering the jewelry business anymore, especially the goldsmith and artisan aspects of the jewelry business.march 21

It is such a pleasure to do business with Peter because he genuinely loves what he does. I spent most of the day with him and he kept showing me special pieces he had recently cut and pictures of extra fine opals he had recently sold. His enthusiasm for opals is infectious!

 

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Harlequin Pattern Pinfire
Opal & Diamond Ring

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Arrival in Hong Kong

I arrived in Hong Kong at about mid-day today, Tuesday, March 20. Normally, I would take the subway from the airport to my hotel in Kowloon, but the day was warm and bright so opted for the bus instead, so I could enjoy the sun shine and sights of traveling through the various sections of the city.march 20 5

I usually stay at one of the two YMCAs in Kowloon but opted to go a little upscale and stay at the Holiday Inn this time.  It’s very nice and convenient to my appointments tomorrow. It is also only a few blocks from the old Star Ferry, so I wandered over to the pier after checking in and boarded the ferry bound for Hong Kong Island. Crossing Victoria Harbour on the ferry.march 20 3 I thought back on the days when my great, great, grandfather, Captain John Drew, would sail his clipper ship into these same waters, one hundred and fifty years ago, while he was engaged in Asian trade. It would take him over four months to sail from Boston to Hong Kong. I can now do it in about 16 hours by plane.

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Hong Kong is perhaps the world’s busiest duty-free port. The business of Hong Kong is business. It’s all about the money! You can’t walk a city block without several people jumping out in front of you with some sort of offer: “Hey mister, want to buy a watch, camera, suit, perfume, luggage, cell phone, etc., etc.?” Back in my navy days, we used to refer to these high-pressure street vendors as “heyjoes” because they always started their pitch with: “Hey Joe, Wanna buy this or that?” In Hong Kong, the pursuit of your hard-earned cash is endless. I am a capitalist and free trade guy at heart, but it can be a little over the top here. Tourist do love coming here though. Primarily for the shopping. On my return ferry trip from Hong Kong Island back to Kowloon, I met a family from Florida that was here shopping. I’m not much of a shopper for products other than gems, but people say that there are fabulous deals to be had here. I will venture out this evening in search of some oolong tea as requested by my lovely wife, but that will be about the extent of my shopping other than looking for high quality opals.

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Tea Time
Garnet & Diamond Ring

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Life changing relationship

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just four short years since I started working with Cross Jewelers. Ascending the stairs and arriving at the upstairs world of Cross Jewelers for the first time, I suspected that this was not a typical jewelry store. Natural crystals mined in New England are prominently displayed on and around the sales floor, accompanied by videos of local tourmaline mining operations. They displayed the best collection of Maine tourmaline and fine sapphire jewelry that I’d ever seen in New England. All this conveying a sense that Cross Jewelers has a unique appreciation for local geology, fine gems, and distinctive jewelry.

Fortunately for me, the proprietor, Ralph Pride, took an interest in the nature of my jewelry and asked me to leave a couple dozen pieces to test the waters. It was an honor to have my jewelry considered by Ralph, as most of the jewelry offered by Cross Jewelers features locally mined gems and proprietary designs.

After a few months, I returned to discover that my jewelry had received a favorable response from the staff and customers, and about half of those pieces had been sold. We discussed which sort of designs Cross Jewelers and their customers favored the most and from that point forward, I began tailoring my designs to meet those desires.

As we began to know each other better, my appreciation for Cross Jewelers intensified. Their depth of knowledge of gemstones and understanding of jewelry fabrication was something special and beyond anything I had ever encountered before. The combined knowledge of Ralph and the Cross Jewelers team probably represents a couple hundred years or more of collective experience. The folks at Cross Jewelers are very discerning about the quality of gems, integrity of design, and execution of craftsmanship. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of fine jewelry. I can have meaningful talks with Ralph and his team about difficulties in sourcing certain types and qualities of natural gems, opportunities for alternative gems, design challenges, or production limitations and they have the experience to fully understand. I would describe them as jewelers of unusual depth and substance.

My quarterly meetings with Ralph are occasions which I greatly look forward to. It feels something like Christmas as I present the latest selection of rings, necklaces and earrings. We talk about the quality and unique nature of the gems and the character of the designs as we review each new piece. Ralph will offer suggestions for new designs, potential changes to designs, and suggestions for unique gems which might be employed in future designs. My favorite part of our meetings is when Ralph becomes inspired by a new idea. His eyes start to twinkle and a smile begins to form as some new concept comes to life in his mind. That youthful exuberance and genuine affection for jewelry is more meaningful to me than the actual business itself. In fact, our meeting will typically last four or five hours and only about ten percent of that time will be devoted to the actual business-related functions of our transactions. His enthusiasm inspires me to be a better jeweler.

Since that initial meeting nearly four years ago, I now devote most of my time just creating jewelry especially tailored for Cross Jewelers because it gives me such a feeling of fulfillment to deliver jewelry which is genuinely appreciated. Ralph Pride and Cross Jewelers have made me feel like one of the team and changed my life for the better. They have made my profession as a jeweler more enjoyable and meaningful.

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The Gull
Blue Sapphire & Diamond Ring

CMT1520

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Outskirts of town

Last night I visited some old friends, Ton and Or, who live on the outskirts of the city of Chanthaburi.

In America, communities tend to gradually change from urban, to suburban, then rural. In Thailand the change from urban to rural is rather abrupt. My friends live only about five miles from the center of Chanthaburi, but it is either undeveloped or agricultural land for the most part. Where there are dwellings, they tend to be in tight little clusters of twenty or thirty homes in close proximity to each other. Sometimes it will just be one or two narrow side streets off the highway with a series of row houses. The homes rarely have lawns or shrubbery like we favor back home, but most will have fruits and vegetables growing around the house.

A little about Ton. He is a very industrious man who is good with innovative designs and working with his hands. When I first met Ton, about fifteen years ago, he was in the quail egg business. He had devised an automatic feeding system for the quail and a system of inclined chutes that delivered the eggs. A few years later, he had abandoned the quail egg business in favor of shrimp farming where he also developed innovative techniques. Now he has transitioned into hydroponic gardening. He has built several of these gardens which automatically deliver water and fertilizer to the plants. He is also in the process of constructing a structure which he designed, intended to be a restaurant when it’s complete. I always enjoy visiting with Ton to see what new venture he is working on.

Thai people appear to be communal type folks, valuing the companionship with each other over space and privacy as we tend to prefer back home. Homes are mainly places where people sleep and maybe occasionally watch television, but mostly people congregate outdoors in the beautiful balmy evenings after work. Although most homes might have an outdoor wok for cooking, they generally don’t have kitchens. People tend to get meals from one of the food vendors in the area. Each of these little communities might have half a dozen food carts. Some of the carts will have a wok and be preparing a variety of stir fry type dishes, others will have little grills on which they grill a variety of seafood and meats, others will be selling fresh fruits or making desserts. There also tends to be one or two mini markets in the little clusters of homes. The mini markets are usually in people’s homes. They will open a large door, similar to a garage door, when they open in the morning and close the door when they close for business at night. These little stores are most often run by senior citizens and sell products like bottled water, whisky, toilet paper, dish detergent, talcum powder, candy, etc. Thailand is delightfully free of the government rules and regulations we are subject to back home. People can open little businesses like the ones described without the need to get licenses from the province or permits from the town.  If subject to the constraints on business that we have back home, these people would undoubtedly find the bureaucracy impossible to comply with and find themselves living on public assistance.

In these mini communities, everyone seems to know each other. It isn’t unusual for someone to hail one of the local children riding past on a bike and ask them to pick up a bottle of whisky, beer, or a bag of ice from the mini market. They will then tip the child 20 baht or so for the service (about 60 cents).

Last evening, when I arrived at the home of my friends, there were three men setting at a table on the corner, drinking whiskey and soda which seems to be the favored beverage among Thai men. A couple of women were setting up a table with dishes and silver wear while prepared food was being delivered by the local street vendors. We dined on shrimp, pork, crabs, squid soup, stir fry, salad and fried rice with fresh sugar cane juice to drink. As the evening progressed more and more neighbors joined the group until we eventually had about seven or eight men and about as many women. As the evening wore on, the men congregated at one table, drinking, joking, and telling stories, while the women congregated at another table, sipping water and sugar cane juice as they talked. Women in Thailand rarely consume alcoholic beverages as Thai culture deems it inappropriate.march 14

They even found some old American country music which they played for my pleasure, although they all seemed to enjoy it. I love spending time in the company of Thai people. They seem to be very kind and unassuming folks.

 

 

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Buddha’s Heart
Emerald & Diamond Ring

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Brisk Market

Saturday was a beehive of activity on the hot, narrow streets of the gem market in Chanthaburi. Thousands of gem buyers and sellers from parts far and wide, as well as purveyors of fruitsmarch 11 11, beverages, street food, and novelty items buzzed about while motorbikes and push carts tried to navigate their way through the sea of humanity. Amidst this chaos, millions of dollars’ worth of gems and cash would change hands by the end of the day.  This is the busiest day I ever recall seeing in the gem market of Chanthaburi.
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At one location, there was a large group of gem brokers packed so tightly surrounding a buyer who was sitting at his desk that you couldn’t even see him. For those readers familiar with casinos, it looked akin to a craps table when someone is on a hot roll. When you see this type of activity in the gem market, it’s a pretty sure sign that the buyer is overpaying. You will be heartened to know that groups like this rarely, if ever, form around me as I’m buying. Typically, I am dealing with one broker, or sitting idle as I wait for a broker to come by with an enticing offer. An old Yankee, I’ve earned the reputation of driving a harmarch 11 10d bargain on the gem market.

Playing my part in this real-life drama, I was able to negotiate a few favorable deals on some very nice gems. First came some Tsavorite garnets of intense medium to light green in ovals and rounds. The ovals are quite beautiful and were specially requested by Ralph Pride of Cross Jewelers for some of our most popular Trade Winds designs. march 11 3The rounds were breathtaking. So fabulous, that I had them sent to a local gem lab to have them checked to be doubly sure that they were in fact, natural gems. They have a vivid green hue of incredible intensity and a precise quality of cutting that delivers spectacular brilliance. I am so excited to work with these gems and am already mentally considering design options to show their beauty to the fullest. Tsavorite garnet has the purest green of any gem I march 11 2know. Emeralds always tend toward a blue-green, peridots to a yellow green, but I can think of no other that exhibits this pure “Kelly” green. In my opinion, Tsavorite garnet is one of the world’s most underappreciated gems. I usually favor them when considering green gems for the Trade Winds collection.march 11

Also made some deals on beautiful blue sapphires mined in Sri-Lanka. Gem folks still refer to them as Ceylon sapphires, using the former name for the nation of Sri-Lanka. These have a pure, medium blue hue that rarely occurs in sapphires mined in other locations. march 11 6This is the hardest type of sapphire to find in good qualities, but the one most cherished by Cross Jewelers and their customers. These will be used in a variety of the existing Trade Winds designs and undoubtedly will be featured in upcoming designs as well. Among all gems, blue sapphires are always the most popular in the Trade Winds collection, followed closely by fine Australian opals.

At the end of the day when the buyers, brokers and street vendors clear out, the streets look like the floor of the New York stock exchange at the end of a heavy trading day. march 11 7Slips of paper indicating offers and counter offers along with little plastic bags and gem parcel papers are strewn about the streets, faint reminders of buying and selling dreams which have been realized or shattered. For the optimistic of heart, tomorrow is another trading day.

 

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Earth Day
Green Garnet, Blue Sapphire
& Diamond Ring

CMT1505

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Around town in Chanthaburi

I love beginning my days with a walk around town when staying in Chanthaburi, AKA, the city of gems. Along the way, it’s so pleasant to exchange friendly greetings with the street vendors I have come to know over the years. These enterprising folks are up long before dawn, preparing their offerings for the morning patrons. Busy as they are, they always take time to say hello and offer a friendly smile.

There are usually notable things of interest to see while out and about like the traffic lights which have illuminated timers so drivers know how long to expect before the light changes from red to green or vice versa. Another innovative use of indicator lights is in large parking garages. Above each parking spot is a light which illuminates red if there is a car in the spot and green if the spot is available. Rather than driving in endless circles looking for an available spot like we do in America, you simply head for the closest green light. With all of our technological know-how in America, why can’t we employ some simple and convenient techniques such as these?

One of the favorite stops along my route is the park and a place I refer to as “exercise island” which is situated in the center of a little lake and connected to the surrounding mainland by three or four flower lined bridges. Among the things to do on exercise island is taking advantage of the dozens of pieces of exercise apparatus, free for the using. It is so pleasant to exercise in the breaking dawn sunshine, surrounded by flowers and blossoming shrubbery, while listening to the pleasant sounds of the tropical song birds. Looking out across the water, you can also see various types of waterfowl like cranes and egrets. There are also groups around the island doing various aerobic exercise programs and martial arts routines. I have occasionally joined in some of the Tai Chi groups, only to stimulate snickering and laughter among the group.  The consensus is that I pretty much suck at martial arts.

Something I came across this morning were several bright pink creatures along the water’s edge which look like caterpillars of some type. I don’t know that I have ever seen a bright pink creature in nature before.march 9 dispatch 10

It’s also interesting to note the bamboo staging set up at a construction site along the way. This is something that would definitely not be allowed in America with all of our OSHA regulations and so forth, but in many ways, the people of Thailand have much more freedom and personal responsibility than we do back home. Creating staging by tying bamboo poles together in a grid pattern is actually a fairly common technique used by construction workers throughout Thailand. What is really amazing is how these workers can stand on these poles in their bare feet for hours on end as they do their work. My feet hurt just thinking about it.

Lastly, while passing a grammar school on my way back to my hotel, I came across a group of little “graduates”. It must have been a kindergarten graduation because the largest of the graduates was about three feet tall. One of the little guys stopped and let me take his photo. The children here are adorable!march 9 dispatch 12

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Returning Tide
Safari Sunset Orange Garnet Necklace

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The Jewelry Designs

I often write about the beautiful gems which are featured as the focal point of the designs in the Trade Winds collection, but the beauty of the gems is only part of the equation when it comes to fine jewelry.cmt1604_detail.jpg.ashx

Fine jewelry often signifies the most special occasions in our lives. A gift commemorating a 25th anniversary, an important graduation, a job promotion, or that special something you bought for yourself on your 50th birthday. These are life’s little trophies. As such, jewelry should be designed to be enduring reminders of life’s milestones.

Most of the jewelry of today is designed by people using computer design technology and three-dimensional printing techniques. These designs can be very precise but tend to have a rather static look about them. Being a bit long in the tooth and unskilled in the world of digital technology, I still make most of my jewelry the old-fashioned way. Original designs are carved from a special type of hard carving wax using a variety of hand tools, many of them home made. For me, design is as much a matter of feel as about proportion, space relationships, and orientation. This is especially true when it comes to forming curves and contours so often featured in the Trade Wind collection. I like to feel the work beneath my fingers as the design develops and comes to life.cmt1477_detail.jpg.ashx

When designing jewelry, I keep comfort and durability forefront in my mind. Jewelry that is cumbersome and uncomfortable will not be worn often, regardless of how beautiful it might be. Jewelry which is poorly designed will also be subject to the frustration of frequent repairs and eventually end up broken and forgotten in the back of a drawer. I want the owners of Trade Winds jewelry to wear their jewelry every day as pleasant reminders of their life’s special occasions.

Durability is achieved through sensible setting styles and using sufficient quantity of precious metals. As you look through the Trade Winds collection, you’ll notice that prongs are infrequently used, especially in ring designs. This is because prongs are prone to wearing out prematurely and lifting after a period of time which might cause them to catch on clothing and other fabrics which is an annoyance to the wearer. I favor bezels, semi-bezels, and channel style setting which are very durable and should easily last for decades or even generations. The weight of precious metals used in my designs, especially rings, is about double the amount used in most typical commercially made jewelry designs. This makes the jewelry stronger and able to withstand the rigors of every day life without becoming deformed or broken.cmt1589_detail.jpg.ashx

Comfort is achieved by keeping a low profile to the designs, especially in rings. Rings with gems set low and close to your finger will allow you to easily slip your hands into your pockets or purse comfortably. At work or play, my designs are less likely to feel awkward or cumbersome than most commercial style designs. This isn’t only a feature you can see but also a feature you can feel. Quality jewelry typically has a distinctive feel which can’t always be captured well in words, but you’ll detect the difference when you try it on.

My Trade Winds designs tend to take forms of gently flowing curves and contours rather than sharp corners and angular features. This is not only a detail of comfort but also a detail relative to endurance, as sharp corners and angles tend to become rounded and wear away with time.cmt1621_detail.jpg.ashx

Rather than using some of the modern, automatic finishing techniques, I make each piece of the Trade wind collection myself, from start to finish using hand tools, paying special attention to the quality of craftsmanship at each stage along the way from polishing the metal, channel setting the diamonds, and mounting the featured gems. I even pay special attention to areas most people won’t even notice, like developing a high polish on the metal beneath the gems. On average, I can make one piece of jewelry per day although some of the more intricate, one of a kind pieces can take up to three days to complete.cmt1505_detail.jpg.ashx

As much as I strive to create jewelry that will please and service the wearer, my work is also a source of personal pride. It is my hope that when someone admires a piece of Trade Winds jewelry decades or generations from now that they will be impressed with the quality and attention to detail that went into designing and crafting it.

 

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King of Siam
Blue Sapphire & Diamond Necklace

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Along the beaches of Chao Lao

Over the past few days, I’ve had the opportunity to walk up and down along several miles of beach at Chao Lao and reflect on the changes that have occurred over the years. Chao Lao isn’t really a tourist beach but a place where Thai people frequent with their families for fun and relaxation. Men will typically sit beneath the trees along the shoreline, sipping beer and whisky while ladies keep a watchful eye on their children as they play in the surf. It also seems to be a popular destination for teens, school groups, and organizations like scouts. I feel like something of an interloper as a white person on a Thai beach, but they don’t seem to mind and actually go out of their way to be friendly most of the time. In the past three days, I’ve only seen one other white person. To be sure, there are Thai beaches intended for tourists in places like Pattaya and Phuket which are meant to attract Europeans, Australians, Russians, Americans and so on. At the tourist beaches, you can find amenities like beach chairs, hamburgers, and pizza which are offered specially to please foreign visitors. The offerings at Chao Lao feature typical Thai food and no beach chairs, as Thai people tend to avoid exposure to the sun if they can help it.march 7 dispatch 6

Twenty years ago, the beach here was mostly deserted except for a few little resort villages and some camps in the trees used by the crab fishermen. The crab fisherman camps still exist and seem fairly active. I stopped by one to take a photo of a crab fisherman working on his trap while out for a walk today. The crab traps are something like size and shape of the old wooden lobster traps of Maine, but a flimsier form of construction.

Today, although still largely undeveloped and lined with coconut and pine trees, some modern tourist hotels have sprung up in places. These new hotels are opulent in comparison to the typical Thai style resorts with their small huts and bungalows, but from all appearance, they have very few patrons. I hear that these newer hotels have been financed with Chinese money so perhaps they are hoping to attract Chinese patrons in the future, but so far, they appear to be largely unoccupied.march 7 dispatch 4

I tend to confine my walks to about three miles in either direction from where I stay, about two hours round trip. They tell me that I could walk clear to Cambodia if I kept walking east although the beach plays out and turns to rocky shoreline after about ten miles if walking in a westerly direction.

Along my walk today, I came across a man building an interesting sand castle. When we build sand castles back home, they tend to be in the form of European style castles. The one that the man was building today had a uniquely Thai influence to it. I thought it rather attractive and more interesting than the style we see back home.march 7 dispatch

A little further along, I picked up some beautiful little shells. They are very thin like crepe paper and have a pleasing purple-lavender hue which transitions to white. The delicate pastel color reminds me of some amethyst of the same color that used to be mined in the Rio Grande De Sol province of Brazil. An interesting note while on the subject of sea march 7 dispatch 3shells: My great, great, grandfather, Captain John Drew, and inspiration for the name of the Trade Wind Collection, was reported to have one of the finest collection of sea shells in the country back in the 1800’s. Family legend has it that he had built a museum adjacent to his home on the Kennebec River to house all of his shells, as well as other artifacts he had acquired through his decades of sailing the high seas. The Captain’s beautiful home still stands and I had the opportunity to visit it a couple of years ago. The current owner, Brian, was very gracious about giving me a tour through the captain’s old home, but didn’t know about a museum. I suspect it may have been in the large building behind the main house that looks something like a barn now.

Another interesting find was a fishing lure. Occasionally, I see Thai fisherman standing waist deep in the surf with long bamboo poles. The poles don’t have reels or any modern accessories like that. Just a length of line tied to the end of the bamboo pole. Their rigs look something like you might have seen the kids using on the “Spanky and Our Gang” TV shows from years gone by. I’m guessing this found lure is not part of the surf fisherman’s tackle, but perhaps something that washed ashore from one of the fishing boats. march 7 dispatch 2An interesting note about the lure is the construction of the hooks which resemble a little double umbrella rather than the treble hooks with barbed ends which are favored back home.

If you ever get to Thailand and want to experience something a little more exotic than the typical tourist beaches, give Chao Lao a try.

 

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Sand Dunes
Blue Sapphire Ring

CMT1569

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Adventures and misadventures

Last night I headed to the beach at Chao Lao for dinner with a group of longtime friends. Chao Lao is on the southeastern coastline of Thailand and situated about an hour’s drive from the gem mining, cutting, and marketing center in Chanthaburi.

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We enjoyed a delicious dinner of fish, crabs, salads, rice dishes and a few others along with copious amounts of beer and whisky.  Temperatures in the low 80’s as we sat a few dozen feet from the oceanfront and listened the waves gently lapping at the sand. Most of the conversation was in Thai language, but it was fun to listen and try to pick up the meaning as familiar words were spoken now and then. Two of the people at the table spoke a little English and would politely try to translate portions of the conversation now and then. Miraculously, as the levels in the beer and whisky bottles diminished, our ability to communicate seemed to improve. By the end of the evening, us guys were three sheets to the wind and we were attempting to teach tricks to a beetle which had landed on the table. As the evening came to a close, my friends headed back to the city and I headed for the little bungalow I had rented at the beach.

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As custom dictates, I took off my shoes before entering my bungalow and left them on the porch, just outside the front door. Upon waking in the morning, I stepped outside with intention of walking down to the oceanfront, only to discover that my shoes were missing. This was no small inconvenience as they were the only footwear I had brought to the coast and was intent on a three day stay. Upon further investigation, I located one of the shoes across the street with a hole chewed through it, but still serviceable. Hobbled down to a small concession on the waterfront to order a cup of coffee, resigned to living temporarily with one shoe until I got back to the city later in the week. The Thai people in the area, seeing me with one shoe and looking around bushes and such for the other, must have sympathized with my situation. About two hours later, a kindly Thai lady showed up at my bungalow, holding the missing shoe!

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Apparently, wild dogs had made sport of playing with my shoes at some point in the night and run off with them as dogs are often wont to do. When I say wild dogs, it simply means that they are creatures without owners. They are generally a docile lot which can be seen almost anywhere in Thailand and present no real threat, unless you get to drinking and are careless with the placement of your shoes!

 

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Sand Dunes
Blue Sapphire Ring

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First days on the gem market

Typically, my gem buying excursions to Asia are a biannual event but due to strong demand for certain sizes and quality of gems, I am back again after one year. Normally, eight to ten weeks are spent on a gem buying trip, but this time can only devote about four weeks to this finicky endeavor.

As usual, the supply of inferior quality gems abounds, but fine quality gems are as scarce as ever. One literal bright spot so far is a wonderful selection of fiery orange gems called spessartite garnet. Not only is the intense orange color captivating but combining that with its exceptional brilliance results in a vibrant gem that seems to burn with a fiery glow from within. Fine qualities of this distinctive type of garnet are usually in short supply. There must be a new source of these gems because there is a greater than normal supply of high qualities available on the market. Taking full advantage of what the market has to offer, I have purchased over 200 carats of these attractive gems for the Trade Wind collection.

Fine blue sapphires of the most popular Sri Lanka origin remain elusive so far but have found a small selection of fairly bright gems mined in the Kanchanburi province of Thailand. These have a rather pale blue hue which I find pleasant, and a nice brilliance in well cut gems.IMG_1681

There were also some sapphires mined in Africa which have made their way here to be cut and sold in Thailand. Although they have a somewhat steely quality to the blue hue, they exhibit fine clarity and brilliance.  They should be a nice addition to the Trade Winds collection.IMG_1698

While on the market, I ran into a couple of “gem guy” acquaintances who also frequent other gem markets and the consensus was that the gem markets worldwide were generally long on buyers and short on supply.

One of the “gem guys” in particular is always a pleasure to see. I can also recall seeing him in Brazil when I frequented the markets there. His name is Paulo and his official home is Italy, but I think he rarely spends time there. Several years ago, he asked my gemological opinion on a large and valuable parcel of Burmese rubies he wanted to buy. Since then, he always goes out of his way to find me if he hears that I am on the gem market. Wish I had a picture of Paulo to share on this post but was without my phone when we met a few days ago. He is the most unlikely looking gem guy anyone would expect to see. A big, burly man with a bald head who looks like one of the Hells Angels.  One of his distinguishing features is a large Colombian emerald crystal suspended from a leather cord around his neck. Paulo is a gem guy’s gem guy. He works all the markets around the world large and small, buying in one market and selling in others. He seems to have little regard for details like trade regulations and such and is frequently fleeing places one step ahead of the law. He is the closest thing I have ever seen to an Indiana Jones type gem dealer. I love listening to his stories about narrow escapes from the law while smuggling diamonds out of Sierra Leone and the like. He is the most colorful of the gem guys I’ve yet to meet.

For now, I am off to the coast for a few days of rest and relaxation, then back to the gem market with hopes of great opportunities.

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Orange Tree
Precious Gem & Diamond Ring

F9562

View Cross’s Trade Wind Jewelry Collection