Burmese rubies are almost mysterious in their beauty. They are some of the most beautiful gems in the world, and they were not allowed in the United States until this fall.
These stones were chosen for my first “5 Things You Need to Know About …” blog post. They are timely, and have the following: Lift of all remaining sanctions they are likely to be there at the gems show in Tucson for their first time in quite some time.
One, I hope to be able to get at least one while I’m out there in the desert.
Here are five facts about Burma gemstones that were compiled with the assistance of several experts.
1. Two factors influence the color of fine Burmese rubies
Richard Hughes’ “Ruby & Sapphire” explains that the first factor is a combination of the gemstone’s slightly bluish-red color and the “purer”, red fluorescent emission. These two factors work together to give the gemstone it high-intensity color.
The second is the presence of “silk”. Tiny inclusions scatter light onto “facets which would otherwise be extinct,” giving color a softness, greater dispersion, and greater distribution across the gem’s face.
While rubies can also be obtained from other sources, they may not have the same strong red fluorescence or “silk”, as those sourced in Myanmar (formerly Burma). It’s this combination of “fine color… and face table materials (i.e. internally clean) that place Burmese rubies at the top.
2. Burmese rubies have a much higher age than those from East Africa
This holds true for all rubies formed by a collision between the Indian subcontinent and the Asian continent.
At certain points in history, tectonic movements have caused large-scale shifts on the Earth’s surface. This has led to the mineral formation and created regions known as orogenic belts. Hughes’ book states that many of the best sapphire and ruby Gemstone mines are located in such areas.
The Pan-African Orogeny occurred between 750 and 450 million years ago. It resulted in gem deposits in Kenya.
The activity that created the Himalayan area–the Indian subcontinent colliding to the Asian continent-–occurred “just 45 to 5 million years ago.” This resulted in ruby and sapphire deposits across Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, northern India, and Nepal, as well as onwards to China and Vietnam.
Thought Hughes stated that although there is currently no way to age-date rubies easily, he believes that if we could it would allow us to separate Himalayan rubies from rubies sourced in East Africa or Sri Lanka.
3. Burma is not producing a lot of high-quality rubies right now
Hughes says that most of the Mogok’s alluvial deposits are being mined.
He stated that alluvial deposits are the best sources of gemstones because they have the purest crystals.
Despite the lack of alluvial resources, mining now involves more hard rock. This has lower yields and keeps the production low.
In a Blog post, Omi Gems published this article shortly after October’s ban was lifted. It also stated that Burmese rubies were still being exported to other countries, even though the ban was in effect, but that “supply was still not meeting that high demand.” This means there is no large supply available to send to the U.S. and that prices will likely remain high.
4. Fine Mozambique rubies can be easily compared to Burmese rubies
There are many great rubies from other sources. But it was the discovery in late 2000 of fine Mozambique stones that made a huge splash in the gem industry, particularly given the ban on Burmese material.
According to Richard Wise, gemologist and author of “Secrets of the Gem Trade”, Mozambique’s material can take on a slight brownish color due to the strong iron presence. However, Mozambique rubies have different iron content so they may exhibit fluorescence and colors similar to Burmese rubies.
This is good news for the industry because there is so little coming from Myanmar right now. Also, Mozambique rubies make up a large portion of what’s currently on the market.
Wise estimates that around 85 percent of the current ruby market is composed of Mozambican products.
As production from Myanmar decreases and assuming that Mozambican rubies remain plentiful, the price gap between Burmese rubies and African rubies will likely continue to shrink.
5. The situation surrounding Burmese rubies is now peaceful
The the U.S. declared an emergency.”National emergency” Concerning the 1997 rise of the Burmese military to power, and the subsequent imposition of sanctions against the country.
The U.S. government targeted the import of gemstones using the Tom Lantos Block Myanmar JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008. This Act noted the human rights violations of this ruling regime and how it was evading sanctions by hiding gemstone origins in order to continue its export to the U.S.
As we all know, the remaining sanctions have been lifted. Rubies can now be imported into the country.
Leaders from the American Gem Trade Association (Juicers of America) traveled to Myanmar in October to discuss trade between the two countries. The group also visited Mogok, Myanmar’s center for gemstone trade and the traditional source of the finest rubies. They met miners and dealers and went on to explore mines.
Since its inception, the AGTA has been reporting was released upon its findings and recommendations to Myanmar officials.
According to the report, “most Myanmar rubies are located in conflict-free areas with the exception of small amounts in Mongshu in Shan State.”
According to the report, workers, miners, and prospectors are safer than the likelihood of funding armed conflicts indirectly.
This is, of course looking at rubies in Myanmar. Jade and its problems are another matter.
The AGTA made suggestions to the government on how to make the country’s gemstone industry transparent and more developed. This included separating jade from other gems in licensing and regulations.