When Aris, 40, a Jakarta-based insurance company employee, went to East Kalimantan five months ago to visit a miner client, he was astounded by the sight of a rock outcrop at a coal mine.
The client gave him a small piece of raw gemstone found at the site as a souvenir.
“After I had the raw gemstone polished, it turned out to be an amazing amethyst. I wear it as a pendant,” Aris said, showing off the purple amethyst pendant in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, on Wednesday.
He soon developed a fondness for local gemstones and started to buy more.
“To date, I have collected 10 gemstones,” he said, adding that “I can relieve stress just by looking at them.”
Realizing that his hobby required significant funds, Aris sets a ceiling price for each gemstone he purchases.
“I set a maximum budget of Rp 5 million [US$400]. Otherwise, I’ll be in trouble with my wife,” he said, with a chuckle.
A few years ago, Jakarta and other big cities across the country were rocked by the skyrocketing price of gelombang cinta (waves of love), which is named after a species of Anthurium. Prices reached tens of millions of rupiah. The trend lasted for about two years.
The gemstone hobby is actually not new in Indonesia and has lasted for more than one decade. The prices vary from about Rp 50,000 to priceless.
Meawnhile, Nesa, 40, a resident of Ancol, North Jakarta, decided to go further to satisfy his curiosity, also sensing a good business opportunity.
“I have collected 200 gemstone rings within about one year. The value of all the gemstones combined may reach Rp 500 million,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Nesa admitted that most of the gemstones were bought impulsively.
“It’s all about curiosity. Once I own the gemstone, the curiosity’s gone,” he said. However, he did not think the expensive hobby was without benefit.
“It’s also a good investment, so I also do this for business,” he said, adding that he had secured support from his family.
The bacan gemstone of North Maluku, in particular, has gained wild popularity thanks to reports that former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wore one and even gave one to US President Barack Obama as a souvenir when the latter visited Indonesia a few years ago.
The local gemstone fever apparently has also reached women.
Influenced by friends, self-employed Ira, 38, started the hobby six months ago. “I love gemstones for their color and shape. Some people believe that certain types of gemstone can cure illness, or even can dispel poison,” she said.
Untung, a gemstone polisher at Rawa Bening gemstone center in Jatinegara, East Jakarta, acknowledged an increasing number of visitors over the past two years.
He said he was always busy throughout his store’s operational hours. “I can polish up to 10 gemstones daily,” he said.
Faizal Chaniago, a gemstone vendor at Blok M Square’s gemstone center in South Jakarta, said he realized the business opportunity and shifted to selling gemstones from jewels six months ago.
“The value of transactions at my shop can reach Rp 50 million per month, double my previous business,” he said, pointing out that local gemstones, including bacan, baturaja and sungai dareh gemstones, were particularly favored by collectors.
He was also upbeat the trend would last for a long time. “Because Indonesia’s gemstones are unique and amazing,” Faizal said.
Another vendor, Ahmad Faisal, had even started his own collection. “When I like a gemstone, I won’t sell it, I just keep it to myself instead,” he said.
Ahmad even compared gemstones to women.
“Falling in love with a gemstone is just like falling in love with a woman. Even though it looks pretty, if we don’t feel the chemistry, we won’t like it,” he said.
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