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BUYING ROUGH DIAMONDS IN BANGKOK
Sometimes when I’m traveling through the small villages in the back country of Ghana or Benin looking for rough I feel like Leonardo DeCaprio in “Blood Diamond”. Adventure, excitement , danger, a little anyway. I was there when the Ivory Coast blew up into a civil war. I’m not a full time rough buyer so I still get a kick out of looking for rough. I get to tag along because I’m a gemologist and can be quite helpful at times. I can even buy some if I had the money. Hell the adventure starts when you get on the Plane in Bangkok and get off 18 hours later in Accra, Ghana. AFRICA! What a place, try to get anywhere and you have to negotiate in sums that stagger the imagination when the exchange IS 14,974 Cedi (the currency of Ghana) for $1. We ended up carrying a duffle bag full of notes just for food and taxis. I enjoyed Ghana and the people but our hunt for diamond rough was not very successful. I think for three days we only bought about 41/2 cts of rough. Well we continued on and found that it is very difficult to get larger parcels from the native people because the large buyers get just about everything.
We traveled to Benin and still no success. Then to the Ivory Coast where we were just in time to see the beginning of the civil war. We had a time getting out of there but we made it to the border before the whole place went up. Back in Accra we decided to get the hell out of there. And off to Antwerp we went.
Now Antwerp was like heaven after two weeks in Africa. We visited a number of diamond dealers down in the diamond district ate some great food but ended up at Rosie Blue. Millions of carats and a great selection. Of course the prices were a little higher than in Africa but at least we didn’t have to dodge any bullets. We made a buy that we were all happy with and left for Bangkok.
But before we left we made one more stop to see a guy I knew that was selling the new Canadian Diamonds coming from the Northwest Territories. What an eye opener, they were outstanding and in large sizes over 10 carats. This find has turned out to be the largest diamond find in the world. All the Canadian stones have a polar bear etched in the girdle of the stone with a laser, unseen by the naked eye.
Back in Bangkok we had some African dealers waiting to see us and we met with them the next day. They told us they had a parcel they needed to sell and would discount it heavily. I was suspicious but it wasn’t my money so I put in my two cents and left. It was $35,000 and should have been $55,000 I said it was to good to be true but he caught the fancy of a doctor friend of ours who happened to be there and proceeded to talk him into waiting for them at the hotel and taking his money for a deposit with them and then bringing him the stones from their room. They went to get the stones upstairs and never returned. He lost $35,000.00 that night.
In Bangkok you’re on your own, BUYER BEWARE. Just today three half kilo gold bars came in from a guy wanting to sell them. They were all stamped and numbered and said Johnson Matthey on them but they were only 15% gold the rest was copper and a little silver. We were told they were solid gold, still a good deal for the right price. I think there are more scams run on rough diamonds than any other stones here. Bangkok is the center for colored stones in the world and is becoming famous for diamond cutting but the buying still is done in Antwerp.
So my advise for buying diamond rough is buy in Antwerp. But for some fun, and if you really want to take a bite out of life, go to Africa for a lot of learning, adventure and new experiences.
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