Thursday, September 5, 2013

Things I Love In Cambodia: Gemstones

Here is one juicy tidbit that is not commonly known to everyone. Cambodia is rich in gemstones. Did that just catch your attention? Yes, I meant that exactly. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds, etc. are abundant in the provinces of Battambang and Pailin. Sapphires from Pailin are considered to be one of the best in the world.

I was one of the clueless multitude when I first arrived here. I saw them in the markets which were frequented by tourists and judging by the sheer quantity and not to mention the sizes of the stones, I thought they were man-made and synthetics. I was immediately put off and didn't even venture to inquire about them. Then I met these ladies who were quite educated and avid collectors of this gemstones. It became one way to pass time to just go to the markets to browse through the jewelry on display. Trying them on is fun and free, like what I did on this day.

necklace with moonstone and fancy sapphires (what they call sapphires which are not blue)

One thing you would notice with their gemstones here is how different they look from what we are used to. Vivid colors and very sparkly. This is because of the processes that the stones go through to bring out deeper colors or enhance their natural hues, such as heating, dyeing and irradiation. Majority of the gemstones you could find here are untreated and remain in their natural colors. 

I don't know so much about the market demands for this untreated, natural gemstones but they hold an appeal for me because they don't look so ostentatious. To a lot of people, they are unrecognizable as precious. Based on my research, however, unheated stones are actually more valuable than heated ones. I am not an expert, however.  But it's a matter of personal preference because some wouldn't mind buying enhanced stones for their beauty.

blue zircon necklace

Blue zircon should not be mistaken for cubic zirconia, a synthetic stone which has little to no value. Cambodia proudly is one of the best sources for this gemstone. Years back this used to be cheaper and more abundant until it became internationally recognized, owing to one jewelry company that used it in it's designs. The best ones are brighter blue and I've read before, it comes second to diamond in it's brilliance.

 necklace with natural emerald stones

Most of the jewelry are set in silver, which makes them more budget-friendly. Silver is another natural resource which is quite abundant in Cambodia. There is always an option though of getting jewelry in gold. They usually come in sets too which would include earrings, pendants and bracelets. Though buying the entire set in purely optional. Loose gemstones are usually of better quality and they do customize jewelry.

earrings in quartz, peridot, amethyst, citrine, etc.

The stones are so big, they look like candies.

bracelets in aquamarine, onyx,garnet, sapphire, amethyst and citrine

cocktail rings in my birthstone Peridot

It would normally cost you an arm and a leg to own one of these but not in Cambodia. The prices do vary, but to give you an idea, my young son was able to gift me with an aquamarine ring recently.

As always, the buyer should be aware of what they are buying. Some do mix in synthetic gemstones and colored glass with real ones. The sellers do not issue a certificate and there is no way to verify the authenticity probably until you go back to your home country. I would suggest to sticking to natural gemstones rather than enhanced ones because the authenticity is far easier to detect. Well, you can always contact me for recommendations. lol!

 Haggling is a must and maybe one of the first things to learn here is to ask for the price in Khmer to get a "locals" price. That is, if your looks can pass as Cambodian.  

So I'd say, skip buying those souvenir T-shirts, key chains and refrigerator magnets for something far nicer and unique for yourself and a special someone. 




  1. OMG Sands!! Im drooling over those dangling earrings!!! I want those clear crystals!

  2. hello, i am happy to read your blog. It happen i saw this sapphire multi color necklace set at an expo, am very ineterested to get a set. Will you kindly provide me the price of owning one?
    hope to hear from you.

  3. it really very nice blog...thank you for sharing the message..

    Synthetic Gemstones