Myanmar (Burmese) Ruby set with trapezoid diamonds in white gold
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is known for its exceptional rubies. It is not widely know that Myanmar also produces very fine quality sapphires.
Sapphires from this country command very high prices for the top quality gemstones with intense or vivid saturation with rich royal blue color. The best sapphires maintain their exceptional color under all lighting conditions, incandescent, daylight and fluorescent, something you rarely see in sapphires. These sapphires do not have the velvety appearance that Kashmir sapphires are known for. Just as with any origin, not all sapphires from Myanmar are so outstanding. Some sapphires are dark or even very light in color.
Fine Burmese Sapphire (from Myanmar)
Rubies and sapphires have been mined in Myanmar for about 800 years. Sapphires are about 10 percent of the output. Mining has been sporadic over the years due to the remote location. Even today, political and economic troubles limit mining activities. Mining is done by government-run and private businesses using both mechanized and primitive techniques. Once the rough is mined, it often heads for Thailand, where the majority of sapphire and ruby fashioning (treating and cutting) is done. Some gems leave Myanmar through unauthorized channels and smuggling is common.
Most Burmese sapphires are heat treated to remove or reduce the silk inclusions. Heat treatment improves the luster and clarity and it can also lighten the darker stones. Because of their origin, fine Burmese sapphires do command higher prices than sapphires of other origins like Madagascar or Montana, but identifying the origin can be difficult if not impossible. Origin identification is most often possible through the identification of that origin’s characteristic inclusions. But since inclusions can be significantly altered by heat treatment, identification can become impossible after heat treatment has been performed.
Ruby in ring from Myanmar (Burma) and Sapphire in ring from Sri Lanka (Ceylon)Peridot in this ring is from Arizona, USA
Most people do not realize and appreciate what it takes to bring a beautiful gemstone to the market. A majority of gemstone mining is done by artisanal miners working with hand picks and shovels. The work is extremely strenuous and even sometimes dangerous with the mining working in deep underground tunnels or on very high mountain sides. Once the rough gemstone material is unearthed, these miners sort it and put together the best pieces to sell to a broker. The mining areas often unfortunately do not have the gemstone cutting expertise so these miners get very little for their hard work. Luckily there are many organizations now that are working with local people to develop cutting skills so that they can eventually make a better living.
For now, for the most part, gemstone rough travels thousands of miles to the major cutting centers of the world. These locations include Thailand, China and India. Bangkok, Thailand, for example, has some of the world’s best cutters who are experts at what they do. Fashioning and cutting a gemstone requires great skill and it is also an art form. Knowing what material to cut away, how to best display the stone’s color, clarity and brilliance, the right methods for treating (like heat treatment) the gemstones takes years and years of experience.
Once the gemstones are ready for the market, they are sold often in these locations. Large jewelry manufacturers and gemstone wholesalers travel great distances to seek out the gemstones that are right for their clientele. The large jewelry manufacturers most often purchase commercial quality goods that are available in bulk for the large volume of pieces they produce. Similarly, wholesalers from New York, for example, travel to the cutting centers often looking for middle market and one of a kind gemstones. These buyers also need great skill in what they do. Did you know that natural daylight is not the same around the world. So a beautiful ruby that has the perfect pigeon’s blood red color in Bangkok will not actually have the same color in New York. So the buyers have to adjust what they buy accordingly.
The large jewelry manufacturers then use the gems they have purchased to mass produce gemstone jewelry for large catalog companies or home shopping channels. The wholesalers would sell their goods to the independent or small retail jeweler who then creates more unique and one of a kind pieces. When you stop and think about it, you can really gain great appreciation for all the people across the globe who actually play an important role in the pieces of jewelry we ultimately wear and enjoy.
The tanzanite in this ring is from Tanzania, Africa
The peridot in this ring was mined from Arizona
We all know that gemstones look different in flourescent, incandescent and sunlight, but did you know that gemstones also have a different color based on where you view it in the world (i.e., your latitude)? For example, a Burmese ruby that looks pinkish-red in Burma will appear a beautiful red in Japan. But a beautiful red ruby in Burma will appear darker in Japan- too dark, in fact, such that it would command a lower price. Ruby buyers therefore purchase different color shades of ruby (as it appears to them in Burma) depending on what market they are buying for.