(CNN) — Asia might be home to some of the world’s major gem trading hubs, but for tourists looking to buy precious stones when they travel in the region, fears of fakes and scams can be a huge deterrent. However, gemologists say there’s little to worry about if travelers are careful and heed some basic tips on how to discern real stones from the phonies.
Thailand, Hong Kong and Jaipur in India are three of Asia’s key gem trading centers, says Russell Shor, senior analyst for the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), a non-profit organization that specializes in education, research and standards in the gem trade.
Jaipur is India’s hub for the sale of gems, which are sold at kiosks, stores and street markets throughout its Old City area. While Jaipur’s gem trade focuses mostly on lower-end stones, Hong Kong is the region’s No. 1 location for expensive gems, including “million-dollar-plus jade and ruby pieces,” says Shor.
Why Hong Kong? Tax-free shopping makes it an attractive destination for tourists, who contribute more than US$1 billion a year to its gemstone export trade.
Thailand, meanwhile, is one of the world’s top colored gemstone cutting and trading centers, exporting in excess of US$600 million worth of gems a year. Bangkok’s Silom neighborhood in particular is home to hundreds of gem traders, while the town of Chanthaburi in southeast Thailand is a major center for stone cutting and boasts a big weekend gem market.
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