Buying an engagement ring in Bangkok
February 29, 2012 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Buying an engagement ring in Bangkok: Advisable?

I'm going to Bangkok with my girlfriend. I'm considering proposing to her on the trip. I'm wondering if it's a good idea to buy the engagement ring at home (we're in Europe) and bring it along or if I should buy one there. I've heard that it's possible to get a good deal on precious stones there but also to be wary of scams.

I don't have a fixed budget for the ring. I'm also not completely sure what kind of stone I want yet. I like diamonds a lot but I do have some qualms about the ethical aspects.

So, MeFi, is it a good idea to buy an engagement ring in Bangkok? Where should I get it and how much should I expect to pay?
posted by anonymous to Shopping (7 answers total)
Are you sure your girlfriend wants you to propose with the final ring in hand? Perhaps she would prefer you to propose with an inexpensive, fun ring, and then you two could pick out the real ring together.

If you do end up buying a ring without her, make sure you know what kind of ring she wants and whether she wants a diamond or not. You might also want to think about whether the ring can be exchanged for a different style - it's likely that a ring you buy in Europe at a local jeweler will be exchangeable; I'm not sure about a ring you buy in Bangkok.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:50 PM on February 29, 2012

you risk being charged a tax on jewelry that isn't currently worn upon arrival. but waiting to buy in thailand can be risky, you risk buying more copper than gold. especially if you are farang
posted by udon at 2:50 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband bought our peridot wedding rings in Bangkok in 2005. He doesn't remember where, but he bought them at a store that was part of a bigger precious gemstone factory/mining area tour that he took with a group. The rings were inexpensive (maybe $25 US, each) and purported to be real, according to the paper they came with. (We've never had them assessed, so take with a grain of salt.) He wasn't charged a tax. Beautiful rings that have held up well.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 2:54 PM on February 29, 2012

In spite of movie lore, a ring is non-essential to a proposal.

The important part? The words.

Mrs. Director & I were on a walk in the woods when it occurred to me that I'd like to keep her around for as long as possible. I sat her on a log and said those magic words.

Did she whine about "no ring"? Why, no, she did not. It thirty-plus years, she's never mentioned that aspect to anyone.

I say, go right ahead and pop the question on the trip. Leave the ring-shopping for when you get back.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:55 PM on February 29, 2012

I'm sure I'm not the only one on MeFi who's been ripped off by gems from Thailand. Of course I was probably stupider than most by buying on a street corner from a gentleman who's only "proof" was using the point of the gem to scratch a piece of glass.

The engagement ring I ended up buying for my fiance was from a jewelry store here in the U.S.A. It was a "vintage" ring which had the advantage of being much less expensive since it didn't have any micro-engraved serial number or other modern perks. It was verifiably platinum, and verifiably an old-style cut diamond (fewer facets than modern cuts.) And it was fraction of what some friends have paid for rings.
posted by markhu at 5:06 PM on February 29, 2012

Why not propose on your first day and then go ring/rock shopping together? If you do that make sure you do the running around first to find the right places to shop at. The issue with shopping together is you need to give her some indication of your budget and also you don't get to surprise her with a ring. depends though on how fussy she is though etc.

If you decide to buy there than Bangkok definitely has cheaper 'rocks' and alot of these places are actually out of town. You need to find a trusted dealer first (I don't know where to ask but definitely not a tuk tuk driver or anyone on the street who get paid commissions!! maybe ask at well-known international hotel reception for recommendations and keep in mind people will take you for a ride wherever they can etc) even if the trusted dealer charge a slight premium you 100% need to go somewhere trusted, then always make sure you get a certificate of purchase and certificate of the weight and quality etc - You want to check first what the certification authority is.

The cost will depend on the quality (clarity) and weight and of course your budget, the dealer should talk you through it all. You should also bargain as much as possible, ask for a ridiculous price reduction (30%) and you might end up with 10-15% (tell them you'll bring them good business etc etc) Maybe send your girlfriend out for coffee during that part. If they are a good shop and she selects a ring they should resize it for free.

Also, if you buy a rock only then you can always get her to design her ring once you get home after she has a look around. If you know what style she likes than better yet get the whole ring made but you need to know what metal she prefers etc.

On another note, there are very few places in the world where you can buy a conflict free diamond, this is the only place I found trustworthy (in my previous life!) If you buy from large dealers, even if they provide a certificate you can expect it to have come through multiple upstream suppliers whereby their conflict free certificates are usually shams.
posted by Under the Sea at 5:13 PM on February 29, 2012

There will be a tonne of ring options for you in Bangkok, especially if you're after rubies or sapphires, but unless you're very knowledgeable about gemstones or have your own trusted source in the city, you run the risk of being ripped off. Not to mention many of the gemstones you see in Thailand will come from Burma. There's a "tradition" in my family where well-meaning men return from business trips in Bangkok with jewellery for their wives purchased from these tourist traps of gemstone warehouses, only to find out that they were duds. Some stones were fakes, some were heat-treated to improve the colour even though they were sold untreated stones, a few were genuine but grossly overpriced for the quality.

I'm not sure what your girlfriend's tastes are, but there are quite a few independent ethical jewellers working with recycled gold and conflict-free diamonds, such as Bario Neal and Conroy & Wilcox. Or look at antique jewellery dealers for more classic designs if you don't wish to give your business to DeBeers (good for you!). Good luck!
posted by peripathetic at 8:12 PM on February 29, 2012

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