Gold – Buying Gold in Cambodia.
Gold is a valuable commodity traded internationally and its wholesale price fluctuates daily, and throughout the day, in accordance with global gold markets. Cambodia is no exception. What do vary widely, however, from country to country and dealer to dealer are the retail price of the gold and the cost of workmanship. Some countries have government controlled and regulated gold markets – India being a prime example. Cambodia has an unregulated or free market for gold and the other noble metals. However, Cambodia has a rather small number of licenced importers of gold for resale to the bullion and jewellery trade. Until recently, the Ly Hour Exchange being the largest. Cambodia’s gold is traditionally imported from Singapore and Hong Kong. Nonetheless, it is keenly priced due to unofficial imports.
So, whilst the retail price of gold in Cambodia is approximately the same as in neighbouring countries the price of the goldsmith’s workmanship is often less. So if you know what you want to buy or what you wish to have made to order, Cambodia can be a good place to purchase gold or in which to have gold jewellery custom made to order. If wishing to have something made to order, please expect to be asked to pay a sizeable deposit against a receipt.
The traditional measure for selling gold in Cambodia is the Chi and the Damlung; these are ancient regional units of weight and best avoided by the tourist. The Damlung, however, is relatively straight forward as it equals 1.2 Troy Ounces. Although, all gold dealers will initial state the weight of a piece as being so many Chi (37.14g) a Chinese merchant may quote either Chi or Tael * unless asked the weight in grams or, if you are buying bullion bars in Damlung 37.49 g. – 26.67 of which equal one kg/1,000. Grams. Fortunately all of the gold dealers and gemstone dealers have modern scales, beam or electronic, and can quickly and easily tell you the gold weight in grams. Internationally, gold is dealt in Troy Ounces = 31.1 grams (and not in the standard avoirdupois ounce of 28.4 grams).
Please note that in neighbouring Thailand, the standard gold purity is 96.5%, and the unit of measure/weight is the Baht which is equivalent to 15.244 Troy grams. So, if it’s gold you want buy Cambodian gold as its “purity” is higher.
The wholesale price of gold bullion is given daily and throughout the day on radio and television broadcasts and the print media in US$ per Ounce (Troy ounce). Remember, this quoted price is a wholesale price only. It is not the retail price at which the bullion wholesaler dealer will sell you gold. The goldsmith/dealer has paid a slight premium above the wholesale price to buy his gold. So, the market place retail price is slightly higher again as the end-vendor has to make a small profit on the gold sold to you.
So far so good. You now know the weight in grams. But what of the purity of the gold you are contemplating buying or selling? This is not quite so straightforward but it is not difficult either.
Gold in Cambodia is not sold or marked to the same purity standards that you may be accustomed to in your own country. In Cambodia all gold purity is expressed in parts per 1,000. Which, of course, is easily expressed as a purity percentage (%)?
As far as possible, Khmer women prefer “pure” gold, i.e. 99.999%, known locally as “Tuk Dorp Meas” * and which, by western standards, is considered too soft. Nonetheless, there are very good historical and practical reasons for this preference. In Cambodia, pure gold, rather than bank accounts, is the traditional store of portable wealth, together with diamonds, as they are so easily transported and easily converted to cash.
Tourists from western developed countries are more familiar with the Carat system - an international measure of the purity of gold alloys. For example:
24 Carat 22 Carat 20 Carat 18 Carat 14 Carat 9 Carat
99.999% 91.600% 83.300% 75.000% 58.500% 37.500%
As is obvious, as you move down the carat scale the true gold content rapidly decreases and the brass and copper or other base metal content rapidly increases! There is no such thing as cheap gold!
So now you know both the weight in grams and the stated purity of the gold. All you have to do now is work out the value of the gold content in the piece that interests you. To do this you simply multiply the Weight X Stated Purity. For example, if your article weighs 100 grams and is stated to be 18 Carat purity the real gold content is 100 (grams) X 75.000 = 75 grams of gold for valuation purposes at the dealers or agreed price per gram.
So to conclude, you may be able to negotiate very slightly on the price per gram of gold and usually a bit more so on the cost of the workmanship. But always remember that the goldsmith is worthy of his hire and has a family to support too. Unless you have been foolish, the combined cost of the gold and the craftsmanship in Cambodia will usually be far less than you could expect to pay in most countries.
Do not expect to easily find or even find “white gold” in Cambodia. Real Cambodian gold has a slightly different, warmer, colour to imported gold and you should expect to pay a premium for it.
* Chi = 37.14 grams.
* Damlung = 1.2 Troy Ounces.
* Tuk Dorp Meas = literally means = Water (acid) (from the) Bottle (to test the) Gold (or 100% purity.)
* Tael – Caution here. A gold or silver Tael is 37.4g. But the “weight” of a Tael varies slightly according to the commodity being weighed.
* In fact, in Cambodia, 14 Ct. gold is known as mee’eh ba’rang = French/foreign gold, so they clearly do not think much of it!
All best regards. Ian