Thomas E. Banker is a subsidiary of Banker Enterprises, owned by Thomas E. Banker. Banker started his career in colored gemstones in 1972 when he was traveling throughout Southeast Asia, Africa and Brasil on a sailing yacht. During this 6-year circumnavigation he spent much of his time working with, learning about and pursuing business opportunities in all aspects of colored gemstones; including mining, cutting, sales and Marketing.

In 1976 he founded Natural Arts in California, for the purpose of trading and marketing colored gemstones. This company became well known in the American market as a supplier and merchandiser of high quality gem materials. With Natural Arts, Banker lived for six years in Brasil and became fluent in the Portuguese language. There he worked closely with all levels of gemstone production including mining, cobbing, sawing, preforming and faceting of gem rough.

Natural Arts became proficient in the field of gemstone color enhancement through various combinations of irradiation and heat. They were the first in the world to produce and market “Swiss Blue” topaz on a large scale. Since that time “Swiss Blue” topaz has become a strong staple of the jewelry industry.

In 1987 Banker established GemEssence in Bangkok, Thailand, to bring a new level of precision cutting and Customer Service to the Thailand colored-gemstone market: in competition with what the German cutting companies had been doing for the past 3 decades.

Within 10 years GemEssence grew from startup to a production, administration and sales staff comprising a total of 250 people, providing one of the major and most highly respected colored gemstone lapidaries and wholesalers in Bangkok.

With Banker’s direction, the firm earned a reputation for fine quality calibrated gemstones, offering German-style precision-cut goods at prices reflecting the price advantage of Asian labor.

Banker and GemEssence also became internationally renowned for its uniquely attractive special cuts, which were produced in standard sizes and high volume. This fancy-cut line achieved the difficult objective of reproducing German quality at affordable prices.

In February 1999 Banker had a very serious automobile accident at the world famous Tucson Mineral and Gem Show. He was almost killed, was in a coma for 6 weeks and in hospitals for rehabilitation therapy for another 4 months. As a result of the massive medication he was given in the hospital, he went deaf 2 weeks after he woke up from the coma.

Since then he returned to Bangkok, turned over GemEssence to his Thai partners and resumed his original business, Banker Enterprises. Just before the turn of the century, he started a unique stone carving business,, utilizing occidental subject matter and contracting master carvers to do his work in the north of Thailand, on the Burma border.

Once again, same as with GemEssence, Banker is reproducing German quality hand-made sculpture masterpieces at affordable Asian labor prices. In addition, he continues to utilize his extensive experience and contact network around the globe to establish an active business in the production and trading of high quality facetted gemstones.
Amnuey Chiwinsorasatra Amnuey Chiwinsorasatra, from Chiang Mai
Of Chinese heritage: born in Burma in 1942. He started carving in 1963, where he worked as a carving apprentice in Hong Kong for 4 years.
In 1982 he started his own factory and store, called Kunming Jade, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Khun (Mr.) Amnuey has 2 master carvers who do very artistic carving according to his design and instructions – specializing in reptiles, birds and dragons.
In the year 2000, he opened a large carving factory in Burma, with 50 workers, for commercial quality carvings of elephants and Buddhas, the type that Thailand visitors see all over Bangkok.
Lo Kin Pong Lo Kin Pong
Of Chinese heritage, born in 1956
Carving jade since 1977, originally he was a carving apprentice in China and then moved to Hong Kong.
He moved to Maesai, Thailand in 1992 and started his own business, named Nong Jewelry, carving jade and making jade bangles.
Mr. Lo is the only artist of who will make jade Buddha heads, because he is Chinese not Thai,
and all Thai’s are superstitious about working with or owning only a part of the Buddha. The Thai carvers will only make the entire Buddha, or nothing at all.
Samphan Wongtham Samphan Wongtham
100% Thai, born in 1957, Has been carving since 1978, and specializes in human figures (primarily Buddha, famous Buddhist monks and the Thai King).
It is not easy to carve human figures, so only a few Thai artists can carve precious stone to look like the real face of the person.
Samphan started his career as an apprentice in Maesai and started his own shop 5 years later.
Now he has 12 workers in his shop, but only 2 of them are master carvers with the skill to work for
Somkid Dongdee Somkid Dongdee (Nickname, Jo)
Of Chinese heritage, but still 100% Thai, born in 1975
Has been carving since 1992. The first 3 years he was an apprentice working for another carving shop in Maesai.
Then he started his own carving shop, called Maesai Jame, and has 5 other carvers working for him.
Jo is the only one of our Maesai masters who specializes in small “wearable” carvings.
 Sompong Wongtham Sompong Wongtham
100% Thai, born in 1967
Has been carving jade since 1992. He is Samphan’s brother (above) and was an apprentice with Samphan for five years.
He started his own business in 1997, but only has one other carver working for him now.
Thongsuk Kumghun Thongsuk Kumghun
100% Thai, born in 1967
Has been carving jade since 1987. He specializes in carving Buddhas, but has adapted extremely well to do pigs for
Worked as an apprentice for 4 years and then started his own factory.
Now has 9 carvers working for him in his shop. This is one of the few workshops we have seen that uses a production line system where a carving goes to one carver for blocking, then another carver for shaping, and another for fine detail finishing work.
Thongsuk and Sompong live and work across the street from Samphan.

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