Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut Pisutha-Arnond, GIT’s Gem Testing and Research Advisor



Opening the World of Research with GIT’s Gem Testing

Key mission of the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (Public Organization) or GIT from the start is identification and certification for gem and jewelry products. One of the major supports for the mission is Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut Pisutha-Arnond, GIT’s Gem Testing and Research Advisor, told us about GIT’s duties and depicted a clearer picture of the institute’s development from the beginning.


Pioneering Team and GIT’s Solid Progress

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut told us that he has worked with GIT as an academic advisor since prior to the institute’s establishment in 1998 at Gem Research Building, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University upon Prof. Sakda Siripant’ s invitation. Prof. Sakda was a Dean of the faculty at the time. The institute was established by collaboration of Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Industry, Chulalongkorn University, and Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association. Later on in 2003, GIT became a public organization under the Royal Decree on Establishment of the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (Public Organization). It has been under the supervision of Ministry of Commerce until today with a vision to be a primary institute developing, supporting, and promoting the nation’s gem and jewelry industry.

While the institute was learning to stand on its own feet during the beginning of its establishment, its key goal was to build readiness in terms of facilities and personnel to acquire reliability and recognition among gem trading industry inside and outside the country. For example, GIT formed a gem testing and researching laboratory completed with advanced equipment, arranged training rooms for people interested in taking GIT’s courses, set up a gem museum and sought out specimens and prepared displays to create a self-learning center, and after that formed a precious metal assaying laboratory and a gem and jewelry information center to offer services to the industry as well as participating in renowned international gem and jewelry trade fairs and academic seminars around the world.

"After a decade, GIT was able to develop itself and gained recognition from gem trading industry domestically and internationally. During the end of the first decade until the end of the second decade, GIT has reached adolescent period. Its personnel have been increased in number and developed to become key force moving the institute forward. Thus, the institute has been relocated to ITF-Tower Building on Silom Road. New gem and precious metal testing and research laboratories have been set up. New gem museum has also been built with additional specimen and improved displays to provide more completed exhibitions concerning the industry from upstream to downstream. Training department now offers various courses including gemology, precious metal, jewelry design, and marketing. These courses are available in Thai and English, short and long term, from fundamental to advanced level, and on specific topic according to a customer’s request. International academic conferences are held every 2 years to boost GIT’s academic reliability and trustworthiness of the nation’s gem industry as a whole. Since 2006, we have held 5 conferences. The 6th conference will be held in 2018 as the institute is celebrating its 20th anniversary. This clearly shows that GIT has continually progressed," Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut explained.


Two Decades of the Laboratories

"During the initial phase of GIT’s establishment under the two-term (7-year) management of Prof. Sakda Siripant, we, GIT’s pioneering academic team which included Mrs. Wilawan Atichat, Dr. Pornsawat Wathanakul, Mr. Rak Hansawek, and I, successfully helped the formation of the institute’s gem testing laboratory. We sought out fundamental and advanced equipment for the laboratory and training courses. We also assisted building the initial team of gemologists for the institute. They conducted gem testing, attended conferences, and presented works in academic conferences and gem trade fairs around the world to help GIT earn recognition from domestic and international gemstone academic circle and trade industry," Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut told us about his work during the early stage of GIT.

After a decade, GIT’s gem testing and research laboratory was able to be among leading laboratories of domestic and international gemstone industry, for instance, being accepted by the World Jewellery Federation (CIBJO) as a high standard laboratory and accredited as one of LMHC (Laboratory Harmonization Committee) members which consist of the world’s 7 foremost laboratories. They determine conformed content used in gemstone testing certifications of the members, which are trusted by international gemstone trading industry.

"Around the end of the first decade to the end of the second decade in 2009, GIT moved to ITF-Tower Building. More advanced equipment have been acquired, new generations of gemologists have been recruited. The institute also increased its capacity in testing and research as well as produced research works. They have been regularly published on GIT’s website, in leading international gemstone journals, and presented in global gem academic conference. The institute’s gem testing laboratory has expanded and stood among leading laboratories of the nation and the world with pride," Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut said proudly.


"Research Works"… Key Mechanism of Gem Testing

As a researcher, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut, who has been in gem and jewelry industry for many decades said, “We cannot deny that research works play an important role and they are essential foundation supporting the laboratory’s gem testing and developing the gem industry at the same time. Gemstone trading industry is dynamic. Apart from gemstones from new sources and new gemstone varieties which constantly making their way to gemstone markets, new gem enhancement methods, new production techniques of synthetic gemstones, and new kinds of gemstone imitations are continuously introduced to gemstones markets. Thus, we need to look into specific characteristics of these gemstones and may have to develop equipment or invent new techniques to identify and distinguish these gemstones.”

Research works related to specifications of natural gemstones from new sources could be important information stating geographical origins. Specific characteristics of new gemstone enhancement methods of synthetic gemstones or new gemstone imitations are essential for identification of such gemstones. It is also necessary to know if they need special attention as they are used for jewelry production and commonly worn.

Meanwhile, research works related to precious and semi-precious stone standards: Pigeon-Blood Ruby Standard Set; Royal-Blue and Cornflower-Blue Sapphire Standard Set; and Padparadscha Sapphire Standard Set, will bring about harmonious color grading standards to be stated on certifications of the gemstones.

"Gemstone variety distinguishing is needed because markets evaluate value and price of natural gemstones from different sources with or without quality enhancement as well as synthetic gemstones, and gemstone imitations differently. Moreover, popularity and preferences regarding colors of gemstones are also different," Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut explained.


Proud Achievements

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut continued that in 2001 a large number of heat-treated gemstones from Thailand with the colors of orange, yellow, and orange-pink, similar to that of padparadscha, flowed into markets. After their specimens are examined by the laboratory, some interesting characteristics were found.

"Having used our equipment available in the laboratory, we found that the gemstones were similar to other general heat-treated gemstones. However, some of them bore yellow rims or orange rims similar to former heat treatment with diffusion. The yellow and orange rims had not been found before. The colored rims were much thicker than blue or red gemstone with diffusion heat-treated in the past hence some laboratories suspected such gemstones and announced warnings to traders and consumers of the heat-treated gemstone issue. Consequently, trading of the gemstone was halted across the world. Urgent in-depth research of the gemstone was then needed."

Having contacted directly with Thai operators who produced and traded the gemstones, GIT became a key leader of in-depth research to solve the issue of beryllium heat-treated gemstone by applying new equipment, LA-ICP-MS, in examining trace elements in the gemstones. The examination showed beryllium (not found by equipment available in leading laboratories around the world at that time) diffused externally into the stones. We learned how beryllium influenced existing internal minerals, for example, iron, magnesium, titanium, or chromium, and caused yellow or orange color. Finally, the commotion in the gemstone trading was cleared up.

Moreover, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut has also taught and conducted research consistently on precious and semiprecious stone heat treatment since the establishment of GIT until now. On the institute’s 20th Anniversary, he shares his experience gained from his gemological research works in a book offering readers specific knowledge on ruby and sapphire.

"With encouragement from Dr. Pornsawat Wathanakul, the former Director of GIT, I have drawn knowledge and experience to write a book called "Ruby and Sapphire Treatments and Identification: Decades of Advancement." They (ruby and sapphire) are the country’s most important gemstones. The book is presented as a commemoration of this year GIT’s meaningful occasion," Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut talked about another work he is going to offer to the gem and jewelry industry.

Ruby and Sapphire Treatments and Identification: Decades of Advancement and other gem and jewelry related books are available on www.git.or.th/bookstore