Professor Emeritus Sakda Siripant, Advisor of GIT

Before the Establishment

"Similar remarks made by experts, saying that ‘Bangkok is the World Center of Gemstones’ had really caught my attention that I could not help asking them for advice on what should be done to help Bangkok continuously secure the status as the gemstone center. They suggested that science and technology had to be employed to expand Thai local wisdoms. Having been given such guidance, I knew instantly that this was a vital mission needed to be fulfilled," Professor Emeritus Sakda Siripant, Advisor of the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (Public Organization), or GIT , recounted listening to experts talking about Bangkok’s significance while attending Baselworld in Switzerland over 20 years ago. The advice had persistently stayed in his mind and he determined to carry it out whenever a chance might arise.

From Determination … to Proud Achievement

His determination since the Baselworld fair gradually began taken shape in 1995 when Prof. Sakda became a candidate for and was elected as the Dean of Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University. Since his application, he openly stated his policy that he would form a gemstone testing laboratory and issue quality certifications at the faculty to support Thai industry’s expansion. The policy was later approved by Chulalongkorn University and Bureau of the Budget. A 60-million-baht budget was approved to build a research building and acquire identification equipment.

"Gem and jewelry industry has been extremely vital for Thai economy. Thailand’s gem and jewelry export value at the time (1994) was 200 billion baht. The industry created around 700,000-800,000 jobs from mining and cutting and polishing to jewelry design and manufacturing. I explained to Bureau of the Budget about the industry’s influence to Thailand and the global market. In order to implement the project, supporting budgets were approved, a 37-million-baht budget for a research building and a 20-million-baht budget for equipment," Prof. Sakda described the starting point of GIT’s establishment before chronologically detailing significant incidents during the initial stages of the institute’s establishment.

After the establishment of the gemstone testing laboratory was firmly announced and the research building construction began, business operators expressed their interest and recognized the significance of promoting GIT to become a national gem and jewelry testing institute. In 1998, Mr. Pichait Palanugool, Vice President of Thai Gem and Jewelry Trader Association (TGJTA) suggested forming collaboration with Ministry of Commerce. Later Mr. Sompol Kiatphaibool, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Commerce, arranged a meeting with: Mr. Pricha Attavipach, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Industry; Mrs. Chantra Purnariksha Director-General of Department of Export Promotion; Mr. Manu Leopairote, Director-General of Department of Industrial Promotion; President of TGJTA; and Prof. Sakda to set up the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (GIT) . The establishment was approved by the meeting. On September 8, 1998, it was submitted to the Cabinet for approval. The Cabinet approved the establishment as a non-governmental organization under the supervision of Ministry of Commerce. The Cabinet also approved of allocating the International Trade Promotion Fund of 60 million baht for advanced equipment and the institute’s operation.

On September 9, 1998, an MOU was signed by Prof. Dr. Thienchay Kiranandana, the President of Chulalongkorn University, and Mr. Sompol Kiatphaibool, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Commerce . The MOU stated that Chulalongkorn University allowed the institute to use the university’s building as the Gem and Jewelry Research and Testing Building for 10 years. On October 1, 1998, Ministry of Commerce issued an order appointing Mr. Sompol Kiatphaibool as the institute’s Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors and Prof. Sakda as the institute’s Director.

GIT held its official opening ceremony on October 1, 1999. Mr. Chuan Leekpai, the Prime Minister, and Prof. Dr. Kasem Suwannakul, the Chairman of Chulalongkorn University’s Council, presided over the ceremony.

In 2002, GIT opened the Gem and Jewelry Museum with great support from domestic and overseas private sector. Subsequently, GIT’s Precious Metal Assay Laboratory was established in 2003.

Having involved in every process since the beginning, Prof. Sakda said he is proud of the successful establishment of GIT. Nowadays the institute is recognized internationally.

"I’m proud of my involvement in GIT establishment 20 years ago to develop Thai gem and jewelry industry’s potential. Thailand had never had such institute before so despite being a challenging and exhausting task it was an enjoyable one. We used SSEF Switzerland’s standards as a model for GIT. The pioneer team and I started from scratch to form the most complete national gem and jewelry testing and certifying laboratory, fully equipped with advanced apparatuses."

Recruiting Skillful Personnel to Carry Out the Mission

Apart from being fully equipped with advanced tools and machines, "personnel" is another key driving force of GIT that Prof. Sakda placed importance on since the first day of GIT’s establishment.

"At the initial stages, I gathered skillful personnel, primary those who have fundamental knowledge in gemology and geology. They were sent abroad to study further on gemology so we would have our own experts. GIT as an institute certifying quality of gemstones has to certify gemstone authenticity and identify enhancement methods used. Quality certifiers are comparable to gemological judges. Hence, choosing personnel for the jobs must be done prudently because the selected ones have to be skillful, honest, and determined, don’t bow out easily."

Beside experts for the laboratories, GIT has also recruited proficient designers to share their skills and knowledge to participants of GIT’s training courses. Prof. Sakda said, "GIT has talented designers who graduated in jewelry design and forming from Italy. With teacher’s spirit, they are ready to share knowledge to enhance Thai jewelry personnel’s skills."

Outlook of the Next 2 Decades

Today GIT is the only CIBJO* Registered Laboratory in Thailand. In 2002, GIT’s laboratory was recognized as 1 of 7 leading laboratories of the world by LMHC**. It was appointed as a committee member to establish policy and prepare an international standard manual of gemstone information declaration which will be indicated on gem identification reports according to the international standards. This is an eminent achievement of GIT, which has only been established for 20 years. The institute is considered very young compared to other institutes of the same format in other countries.

"GIT is one of the institutes providing the most complete services regarding gem and jewelry identifying and certifying in the world. We offer identification services for diamonds, other gemstones, and precious metals. Our standards have been extensively recognized at international level. The most outstanding service is gemstone identifying and certifying since Thailand is the country of precious and semi-precious stone and it is located near the world’s key sources of the products," Prof. Sakda described GIT’s status at international level.

Regarding future path, Prof. Sakda envisioned GIT actively penetrating international markets, especially China, a large market that must be focused on because if Chinese consumers become aware of precious and semi-precious stones value, they will want to buy them. Their increasing demand will boost Thai gem and jewelry export. He explained further,

"I want to train salespersons of Chow Tai Fook, which is a China’s jewelry giant with countrywide network. I want to show them about preferred characteristics of precious and semi-precious stones and train them to be able to moderately identify the gemstones. If they recognize value of the gemstones, they will use the knowledge to promote the products in China. This will boost demand for the products and eventually increase our precious and semi-precious stone export."

Meanwhile, GIT will play a role of a facilitator, planning to propel Thailand to successfully become "the world’s gem and jewelry trading and manufacturing hub" as the goal set by the government.

"Thailand can become the world’s hub because we have favorable asset that is our fineness in jewelry design. However, our designers need to learn how to adapt Thai jewelry designs for foreign consumers’ comprehension so that they become interested in buying the products."

Apart from our strength in intricate craftsmanship, Prof. Sakda pointed out that to become a "hub" of the world, Thai business operators have to understand behaviors of consumers in the export markets. They need to keep up with each year’s design and color trends. Innovation is a crucial factor of this era. They have to come up with inventive concepts in materials and techniques used in creating jewelry pieces. Traditional patterns and designs can also be modified to create modern jewelry.

Finally, Prof. Sakda concluded that he is ready to put his experiences throughout 20 years on gem and jewelry road and his knowledge acquired from learning, exchanging views, and constantly updating knowledge during his trips to foreign countries to help achieving the goal of becoming the world’s gem and jewelry manufacturing and trading hub.

"I have been working in the industry for 20 years. Driving the industry forward needs cooperation from every related agency of public and private sectors to push forward the government’s policy."

*The World Jewellery Confederation
** Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee