Colored gemstones - especially the pricey coveted ones - are sourced from exotic locales in foreign countries with odd sounding names to most Westerners. It’s all about the geology - simple as that. Those of us in the trade understand that stones have come from Bangkok, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and other remote destinations.
Off the Radar - But on to Something
Jakarta as a gem hub has not been so much on the radar screen for many Westerners. But in this Indonesian capital, the Jakarta Gems Center previously called Pasar Rawa Bening or the Shiny Swamp is really a marketplace like none other. Traders come looking for gemstones and precious metals alongside diamonds, and perhaps some shoe stalls, and a drug store. Veteran hagglers know to visit during the weekdays before the weekend rush of crowds push the prices up.
But in this bustling hub where bargaining is expected, ‘civilian’ buyers are catching gem fever - in other words, people who’s mainstay is more of a traditional business, like insurance sellers and office workers. The reason is pretty obvious. Anyone can buy if they have the money - which may not be much by our standards for gemstone rough.
It Starts with One Stone
It doesn’t take long for a curiosity to turn into a hobby and soon morph into a fever for color stones. Actually residents of this small country have professed to have borne a good case of gemstone fever for the last decade or more. Impulsive buys by local residents can be transformed into a burgeoning side business some citizens have found.
According to north Jakarta resident Aris, he has to cap his impulsive gemstone spending however. “I set a maximum budget of Rp 5 million [US$400]. Otherwise, I’ll be in trouble with my wife,” he chuckles.
The Lure of Color
Untung, a local gemstone polisher at Rawa Bening Gems Center in East Jakarta acknowledged an increasing number of visitors over the past two years. He said he was always busy during his store’s business hours. “I can polish up to 10 gemstones daily,” he confides. Taking a philosophical approach, he compared gemstones to women. “Falling in love with a gemstone is just like falling in love with a woman. Even though it looks pretty, if we don’t feel the chemistry, we won’t like it.”
The Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Indonesia puts this gem fever into perspective with an assessment of their annual output. They claim that there are more than 40 popular gem varieties and many rare gemstones recovered from the region including diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald and opal. That colorful cache sounds like it can keep that region’s fever going for some time.