DOLLAR DIPLOMACY: While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was making the case for stronger democracies among Southeast Asian nations during her two-day visit to Bangkok this week, her staff found time to do some jewelry shopping.
Dropping in Tuesday afternoon to Venus Jewelers, just a five-minute walk from the American Embassy, staffers bought a treasure trove of gems. The most expensive buy was a black star sapphire and diamond gold pendant and earrings, which was wrapped up for $650. One member of the Democratic administration’s staff bought a gold elephant pendant, which in Thailand symbolizes the strength of the monarchy. Other buys included a white pearl ring, green jade earrings and gold earrings. About 10 staffers spent a total of close to $4,000 in their one-hour shopping spree.
“We didn’t expect them to spend much money because of the state of the economy,” a spokesman at Venus Jewelers said.
Past U.S. dignitaries have been treated to secret visits by Venus representatives who carried suitcases of gems to their hotels. First lady Barbara Bush bought some of her ubiquitous pearls at Venus, and president Bill Clinton was given a pair of Ming Dynasty pottery cuff links set in silver. With its walls lined with pictures of U.S. officials who have shopped there over the years, the shop caters almost exclusively to the American expatriate clientele in Thailand.