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Published: February 1st 2016
I sometimes forget just how wealthy Singapore is. Yes, there are some poor people, but you don’t see anyone sleeping in doorways. And yes, some of the housing is far from luxurious, though nothing that would be called substandard, unless you are a foreign guest worker, then accommodations can be pretty grim.
Bear with me while I give you a few statistics to put things in context. (You may skip ahead a few paragraphs if you want, or you can read through and wow your friends with this knowledge.)
When you look at rankings of per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product), Singapore comes in third, behind Qatar and Luxemburg. The United States comes in at number eleven, Australia at eighteen, and Canada ranks twenty-second among the world economies. Add to that, the island city-state is home to the most profitable casino in the world, the Marina Bay Sands. 80% of that profit comes from foreigners, Singaporeans need to buy a license – for S$2,000 a year or S$100 a day – to enter the casino.
Singapore is the largest transshipment port in the world, and has the world’s fifth largest oil refinery on Pulau Jurong. All of this
Marina Bay Sands
The most profitable casino in the world.
makes for a lot of money sloshing around Singapore. OK, for those of you who skipped ahead, you can come back now.
So, I’m walking through Bugis Junction, a typical, middle-of-the-road shopping mall. There are some midrange clothing stores, a couple of drugstores, and, of course, a Starbucks. As I’m walking toward the exit, I pass Lee Hwa Jewelry. A big poster in front of the store advertises “Buddha Diamonds.”
Intrigued, I walk inside. I’ve never seen a Buddha Diamond, or heard of one, for that matter. Does this mean it was blessed by a monk? Did it come from the site of an ancient Buddhist Temple? Is it a supposed relic of the Buddha himself? Inquiring minds want to know!
Turns out these are diamonds cut and faceted in the shape of a mediating Buddha. Developed by Munich-based Schreiner Fine Jewelry, a Buddha Diamond has up to 58 facets and is sculpted from a single rough diamond. For religious reasons, the head of the Buddha must not have any inclusions or other flaws. Each diamond is cut and polished by hand, and because of its shape, there tends to be a greater loss of carat
New Bridge St
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Hindu temple in the foreground, luxury condominiums in the background.
weight, typically more than 50%. The finished stones weigh between 0.40 carats and 3.5 carats.
I asked to see one, and the two friendly clerks told me they didn’t have one in their store right now. However, one of them leaned in a little closer.
“We did have one customer who came in and bought seven of them,” he said confidentially. “I wasn’t there when he came in, but it was a pretty big sale.”
“How much did he spend?” I asked, purely out of curiosity. I wasn’t going to buy on for myself. The two clerks looked at each other, and then one said, “I can’t tell you exactly, but it was over S$100,000.”
“Wow,” I replied. “Either he has a lot of daughters or a lot of girlfriends.”
Possibly useful information: Information on Buddha Diamonds can be found here: http://www.leehwajewellery.com/
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