Myanmar’s Rubies

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The pigeon-blood red of rubies from Mogok, a region of Myanmar that has long been called the Valley of Rubies, are world-famous and coveted by many.  Mogok lies about 210 km northeast of Mandalay, in a region of dense jungle that covers the nation’s 400 square mile stone tract, of which only a portion about 70 square miles in area is stone-bearing.  Like the country itself, the Mogok region is home to many different ethnic groups as well as unique ecological webs including such animals as bears and monkeys.  The size of the population of the Mogok area is around 300,000 people and it includes Burmese and Shan (Buddhist ethnic groups), Nepalese Ghurkas (Hindu), Lisu (Christian and Animist), as well as smaller numbers of Muslims, Sikhs and people of Eurasian origin.  Rubies have been mined in Mogok since prehistoric times and while these mines are still important, especially for their cultural value and legendary ruby stories, they are no longer the most productive mining region in Myanmar.  Mong Hsu in Shan state is now the major ruby mining area in the nation, and arguably the world.  Namya, in Kachin State is known for excellent rubies as well, which are found nestled in its swamps along with blue sapphires and other valuable stones.  From Kachin state, rubies are often smuggled across the border to China and India to avoid paying the government fees required to sell stones legally in Mandalay and Yangon and to raise capital for Kachin militia, one of the remaining groups of insurgents.  From the Shan states and Mogok, rubies are often smuggled directly across the border to Thailand and sold in the markets in the border town of Mae Sai.  From all areas, stones may be smuggled through Mandalay to Yangon and then across the border to Mae Sot in Thailand. In this globalized age, rubies (and other gems) from all localities are smuggled to a variety of places all over the world (click here for a map of gem smuggling routes out of Myanmar).  Because the government has kept such a tight hold over gemstone profits, and allowed Chinese business tycoons to reap the benefits of ruby mining more than the native ethnic groups who work in the mines, a sizeable portion of Myanmar’s rubies have leaked out leaving no potential for contributions to macroeconomic progress. However, given mismanagement of federal funds and failure to respond to calls for participatory policy-making, improvement of human rights, environmental protection, and responsible poverty alleviation, the acting military junta are not trusted to use revenue from gemstone mining ethically. This report pays tribute to the creativity, hard work and hopes for the future of Myanmar's artisanal and small-scale ruby miners.

The image below shows the how the terrain of the Mogok Stone Tract area looks. Mining occurs all throughout the light gray areas in the foreground. Three of the larger towns, Mogok, Kyatpyin, and Bernardmyo, of the tract are marked. Local gem markets occur mostly in the town of Mogok (also called Magok). To see a view looking north from Kyatpyin with major mining areas marked, roll your mouse over the image. This 3-D map of the land between Kyatpyin and Bernarmyo was produced by fieldgemology.com.

Terrain of Mogok Stone Tract

We invite you to learn more about the terrain of the Valley of Rubies using data shared by fieldgemology.com and the power of Google Earth, a free software program provided by Google.com. Just download and install the Google Earth software. Then download and install the Fieldgemology Placemarks. Using the placemarks you can take a tour through the Valley of Rubies and link to relevant pictures from the ground on fieldgemology.com. We recommend that you select the "terrain" option (in the lower left "layer" booklet window of Google Earth) to see the Stone Tract in 3-D.

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Photo Gallery

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Photos courtesy of fieldgemology.com

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