Mrs. Wilawan Atichat, GIT Advisor

A Comprehensive Talk with GIT’s Gemologist

People in gemstone industry and consumers know GIT or the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (Public Organization) very well. Its laboratories are known as Thailand’s gemstone, jewelry, and precious metal laboratories recognized at global level. “Mrs. Wilawan Atichat”, now an advisor of GIT, was a member of GIT’s first gemologist team.

During the initial stage of GIT, there were 4 young gemologists whose advisors included highly experienced geologist and mineralogist consisting of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Visut Pisutha-Arnond from Faculty of Science of Chulalongkorn University, Dr. Pornsawat Wathanakul from Department of Earth Sciences of Kasetsart University, and Mr. Rak Hansawek and Mrs. Wilawan Atichat from Department of Mineral Resources.

"At the beginning, we formed a gem testing laboratory with advanced instruments. We received supports from business operators, associations, and GIT’s Board of Executive Directors. Then there was a reformation of the organization’s structure so more gemologists were recruited to match the amount of specimens submitted for identification."

Mrs. Wilawan told us about her work in the laboratory, "The job is comparable to examining human body but what we examine are varieties and characteristics of gemstones. This is a challenging job for gemologists because each stone submitted for identification and certification is different. We have to check whether it is natural, synthetic, or imitation gemstone. After that, it is examined whether it has been treated by any methods: heat treatment, radiation, or dyeing."

Mrs. Wilawan also added that gemstone identification requires scientific equipment. Acquiring ones is also very challenging. Additionally, supporting fund is necessary and we need to train our gemologists to become skillful in using the instruments as well as systematically and accurately identifying gemstones.

"During the past decade, traders and buyers of gemstones have been requesting information regarding geographic origins of gemstones. Thus, GIT need to strive in research and study concerning occurrences of key gemstones in each continent, study characteristics of gemstones of each deposit to develop an accurate and up-to-date database, and arrange systematical identification procedure. GIT has formed sustainable standards of gemstone, jewelry, and precious metal identification as well as improved effectiveness of identification procedures for more modernized and quicker procedures. Modern management methods have been employed. Information system is used for receiving and dispatching specimens and storing document and information for brisker operation in supporting and responding to demand of Thai and foreign customers," Mrs. Wilawan explained.

Enriching Gemologists

Regarding personnel development of GIT’s laboratory, Mrs. Wilawan said, "We have used our accumulated experience to train gemologists through coaching management approach and let them practice in the laboratory. We have many gemstone identification cases. Identification procedures and approaches are standardized. Each tool has its handbook. Up-to-date gemstone database and supporting research works are prepared to find appropriate gemstone identification techniques to cope with treated gemstones constantly flowed into markets."

Moreover, GIT has also consistently offered opportunity for gemologists to participate in international research programs and held an international conference, GIT International Conference, every 2 years since 2006. The conference is a platform to present research works and exchange knowledge. Such implementations have helped GIT’s Gem Testing Laboratory gain high capacity in organizational and personnel aspects.

Shining Brightly in Global Arena

Apart from gaining recognition in the country, GIT needs to obtain acceptance in global arena. Mrs. Wilawan said, "We cannot stay inactive. Bringing GIT to global platform in trading, academic works, and research works is essential, for instance, being a member of the International Colored Gemstone Association, participating in Gem Industry and Laboratory Conference in Tucson, presenting GIT in major gem and jewelry events such as JCK Las Vegas Show, gem and jewelry fairs in Hong Kong and Shanghai as well as gem and jewelry fairs in ASEAN countries such as Malaysia and Singapore."

GIT’s Gem Testing Laboratory has been accredited from the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) since 2000. Then in 2006, the laboratory became one of the seven members of the world’s foremost laboratories called Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee (LMHC).

Furthermore, GIT’s Gem Testing Laboratory and Precious Metals Assay & Hallmark Center has been granted ISO 9001 and ISO/IEC 17025 certifications, boosting its image value regarding international standards. Consequently, its identification services earn more confidence from domestic and international business operators and customers.

Boosting Colored Stones Sales

Mrs. Wilawan talked about one of GIT’s achievements, Ruby Year 2002 and Japan Colored Stone Promotion, which aimed to promote colored stones and rubies in Japan in 2002 and 2004-2005.

"GIT carried out the projects with collaboration of Thai and Japanese colored stone traders. To be a part of the sales promotional activity for Thai colored stone in Japan, GIT served as the key agency in issuing certifications for rubies and blue sapphires exported for distribution in Japan. The project was extremely successful leading to consistent growth rates in colored stones import and export of the two countries."

She added that quality standards have been an obstacle in ruby and blue sapphire trading because they remain unsettled and the unclear standards weaken consumer confidence. Therefore, GIT has been conducting research programs on colored stone standards. In order to form ruby and blue sapphire standards for the industry, research programs have been carried out for over 19 years since 1999 until now.

GIT has developed “colored stone standard sets” of corundum gemstones: ruby, blue sapphire, padparadscha, pink sapphire, purple sapphire, orange sapphire, yellow sapphire, and green sapphire to be a tool identifying color quality of the gemstones. The standard sets can be used for trading and price evaluation of the gemstones. Apart from stating varieties and authenticity of gemstones submitted for identification, the gemstones’ color and appearance grades can also be stated on GIT’s certifications.

“We have specified quality standards regarding colors, clarity, and cutting. Color terms, especially, influence price of gemstones because markets demand trade names for colors, namely, pigeon blood, royal blue, and cornflower blue, on identification reports. The standards we developed can build consumer confidence, as well as support and promote gemstone trading for business operators. Generally, gemstones with certifications can fetch higher prices than typical gemstones. Standard color sets also help Thai gem and jewelry trading flourish.”

GIT Assures Quality

Mrs. Wilawan emphasized on significance of identification and certification of gem and jewelry products, "Nowadays, gem and jewelry trading business has changed from the past due to globalization. Consumers gain quicker access to information hence they place importance on certifications of gem and jewelry products as they are expensive items. Decision to buy or price may primarily depend on buyers and sellers’ agreement. Moreover, as science and technology has advanced greatly, a large number of imitation or synthetic products have been circulated in markets. Distinguishing authentic and synthetic products is not easy for people in general. It has been a key obstacle for consumers, tourists, and sellers in gem and jewelry trading industry."

Thus, GIT, Thailand’s primary agency serving general public and supporting and promoting Thai gem and jewelry industry’s competitiveness in the global market, is ready to stand alongside business operators and consumers to boost confidence and trustworthiness, the key factors of purchasing decision making, to bring Thai gemstone industry to thrive across the globe and become the world’s gem and jewelry trading hub.