Jewelry and accessory has been always one of the top ten important industries in Thailand. In 2010 the export value accounted for US$11.65 billion, the third of the top-ten exports, and 5.94% of Thailand’s total export of that year. Thailand needs to import valued metals such as gold, silver, and including gems to make products and add value for export.
Jewelry making has developed from household industry which mainly production comes from workers and simple tools. Nowadays, technology has been improved; machinery was brought in for assist the manufacturing process. Manufacturers have to import machines. Due to the expense, 90% of manufacturers, who are small and medium enterprises (SMEs), cannot afford the hi-tech machine for production. To maintain being a leader and center of jewelry manufacturers, Thailand needs talented workers who has fine, delicate, and unique skills. Especially in gemstone heating process, gem smith must be able to reserve the unique Siam style (e.g. Tub Tim Siam).
Gem and jewelry industry’s structure
1) Gem stones industry consists of 198 jewelry manufacturers registered with Ministry of Industry, hiring 20,000 workers. Most of job hiring comes from large manufacturers. Some production processes need talented, skillful, and experienced workers, and cannot use machine for these processes. The ratio of the Thai and foreigner-owned operations in this sector is estimated at 55% and 45% respectively. Gem and jewelry can be categorized into 2 types, gem cutting and diamond cutting.
- Gem cutting and polishing in Thailand is well known for its outstanding worldwide. Most factories are small household factories, using many workers in production and simple equipment. Some manufacturers have their own proprietary of gemstone heat treatment.
- Diamond cutting and polishing requires a high investment due to the high technology and sophisticated tools. Therefore, most entrepreneurs are foreigners or joint venture companies from world famous gemstone cutting polishing industry countries such as Belgium, Israel and England. Those manufacturers import the raw materials like gemstone, technology, and machinery to support Thai workers.
2) Jewelry industry. There are many jewelry manufacturers in Thailand, 552 factories registered with Industrial Works Department, hiring 44,000 workers for designing and screening process because these production processes require talented workers.
Entrepreneurs who focus on export, most of them are large manufacturers and medium enterprises from oversea due to a machine investment and stocking raw materials like valued gemstones. There is only one manufacturer in Thailand who has capacity for the whole production process in gem and jewelry, Pranda Jewelry, Plc. Other manufacturers are household factories and sub-contract or outsource for medium and large manufacturers. Therefore, workers will develop their skill according to entrepreneurs’ needs. These specific skills will be inherited by generation to generation.
Thailand’s import and export gem and jewelry.
Most Thailand’s gem and jewelry industry is for export, accounting for 80% of all production. Only 20% of production is for domestic consumption.
Thailand, however, does not have enough raw materials for the jewelry production and need to rely on imports for raw materials. In 2010 Thailand imported, US$ 437.81 million of gems stones, mostly from Australia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Israel, India, China, and Belgium.
Thailand’s gem and jewelry export industry has been ranked as Thailand’s one of the most value export industry all along. Most commodities are gold and silver, and jewelry is the third. Thailand‘s jewelry trading partners are USA, EU, Australia, Hong Kong, Israel, and Japan. Thailand’s major competitors are Israel, India, South Africa, Belgium, Canada, China, Switzerland, USA Russia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
Reference: The Centre of Industrial Economics 2011